The proposed withdrawal of mortgage subsidies for people on lower incomes suffering negative equity as a result of the financial crash of ten years ago has been branded 'despicable' by SDLP councillor, Shauna Cusack.
Colr. Cusack said the scheduled replacement of the 'Support for Mortgage Interest' scheme with interest-bearing government loans from April was another direct consequence of the Welfare Reform Act 2015 and would heap further hardship on people who are already struggling.
She said: "It is despicable that, in their time of need, (whether temporary or permanent) the people who strove to secure their own roof when the state couldn’t, and whose personal circumstances may have changed, through no fault of their own, are being punished and put into further debt, in order to save the Government a further 170 million, when they have probably already saved the istitutions billions."
Her motion, passed unanimously by Derry City and Strabane District Council on Thursday, proposed that the Council "recognises the impact that the changes to the SMI scheme will have on hardworking, low income families in our City and District who will face increased financial hardship due to the upcoming change in the SMI scheme from a benefit to a loan".
It further recognised that "this change will punish those who own their own home, including those who were actively encouraged by the British Conservative Government to buy their own homes during the crash".
Councillors declared themselves "concerned that the conditions of this loan will cause people to get into unmanageable debt and is self-defeating in that it could cause people to lose their homes, and in turn possibly become more reliant on the state and on social housing".
They called on the "Department for Work and Pensions to urgently review this decision, as well as its financial impact and validity before the changes are made in April".
More on this story later.