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When everyone has a home

Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

Homeowners urged to get advice as benefit changes to loan.

A benefit that helps homeowners to pay the interest on their mortgage changes to a loan today.  Local charity Housing Rights is urging households who may be affected to get advice.  The charity’s helpline is already dealing with calls from homeowners who get the benefit, called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI), who are unsure what the changes will mean for them.

Figures obtained in February[1] showed that out of the 124,000 households receiving this benefit across the UK, just 6,850 had signed up to the new loan scheme.  The new system has the potential to have an even more acute impact locally as NI has the greatest proportion of homeowners in poverty than the rest of the UK[2]

Ursula Toner, Advice Services Manager with Housing Rights commented: Thousands of local households receive this benefit so we are very concerned by these low take up figures.  We work with people who are faced with losing their home due to job loss or serious illness every day.  We have no doubt that without the critical safety net provided by this benefit many people would have lost their homes. That makes it even more vital for households reliant on this help to get free information and advice about the best way forward for them.”

From today the benefit becomes an interest bearing loan which will be secured on the home. While the level of help available to claimants will not change they must consent to receiving this assistance.

Miss Toner continued: “For some households taking the loan to replace the benefit may be the best thing to do, for others it may not.  We want people to make an informed decision that is right for them.  Our helpline can give homeowners advice and options based on their individual circumstances.  Making a call could help safeguard your home.”

Anyone worried about the change can contact Housing Right housing helpline on 90 245640 and pick option 3 to chat to an adviser.

 

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[1] Obtained from an FOI request from Royal London http://bit.ly/2EGuiBZ

[2] JRF Home Owners and Poverty in Northern Ireland briefing