We are encouraged that the Department is reviewing the current system which has become largely ineffective due to the discretionary nature of the scheme and lack of investment. Any new scheme will have to take into account the financial difficulties many owners are facing and the problems many experience in accessing and servicing loans. Housing Rights Service is in general agreement with the proposition to simplify support arrangements for repair and improvement and to provide for more flexible forms of assistance which meet the particular needs of applicants.
Housing Rights Service believes that the under-occupancy sanction has the potential to cause real hardship and distress to many claimants and their families. We are worried the measure will have a disproportionate impact in Northern Ireland given the existing composition of the housing stock and high levels of under-occupation in social housing. In our opinion, the policy will do nothing to ease local housing pressures because the greatest demand is currently for smaller properties -precisely those that the ‘spare bedroom tax’ will force social tenants to try to move to.