People ‘fear for their homes’ if benefit is cut

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HOUSING Executive tenants fear losing their homes as a result of benefit cuts, Sinn Fein has claimed.

Larne Coast councillor James McKeown said a number of people have contacted the Sinn Fein constituency office in Carnlough in the past week after they received letters from the Housing Executive.

“These letters informed people that their Housing Benefit could be cut by up to 50 per cent,” said Cllr McKeown, who added: “Many tenants have a real fear they will lose their homes as they will struggle to pay their rents.

“We already have a housing system which is creaking at the seams in many parts of the North. This new reform bill introduced by the British Government will only place greater hardship on people who already depend on Housing Benefit to meet their rents. I will be seeking a meeting with the Housing Executive to explore ways of avoiding or alleviating this inevitable and unnecessary hardship.”

The Housing Executive confirmed that it is currently writing to Housing Benefit claimants across Northern Ireland who may be affected by Government changes to rules that apply to single people, aged 25 or more but under 35, who are living in self-contained accommodation. The changes mean that Housing Benefit will be assessed using only the shared accommodation rate.

“This means the award of Housing Benefit may be significantly less than the actual rent charge if the tenant is renting larger, self-contained accommodation,” said a spokesperson.

“Those affected by the change may be entitled to some additional financial assistance to meet this shortfall through a Discretionary Housing Payment. Further details are available on our website at www.nihe.gov.uk/discretionary_housing_payments” she added

Further information is available from the Housing Executive’s local Housing Benefit Service Centres, tel 03448 920 902 or the Housing Executive’s website www.nihe.gov.uk

Meanwhile, Cllr McKeown welcomed an indication from NIHE that an improvement scheme is to commence in January on dwellings at Herbert Street in Carnlough. The project will include installation of windows and doors.