Changes to extend the shared accommodation rate to 25-34 year olds will also see an average cut of £47 a week, as their benefits will only cover the cost of a room in a shared house, instead of a self-contained flat. On top of this, the maximum rate will also be based on a four bedroom not a five bedroom property. For larger families the reduction could be as big as £2,750 a year!
According to the National Housing Federation, over 200,000 people across Britain are at risk of losing their homes because of the housing benefit cuts, further increasing poverty and debt. Northern Ireland will be disproportionally hit and will force up the number of people on housing waiting lists already at crisis point.
The Assembly parties have cried crocodile tears over this issue as it is a direct cut from the “Con-Dems” at Westminster. Yet they are prepared to add to the misery of families by introducing vicious cuts of £70 million in social housing. Housing is a right, not a privilege. To deal with the housing crisis the Assembly Executive should take over the thousands of houses and apartments currently lying empty across the North and begin an emergency programme of public workers to employ the thousands of construction workers currently on the dole and provide housing to suit the needs of all.