Homeless crisis warning

Strabane Council Chairman, Brian McMahon, has warned the North faces a housing crisis unless Department of Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland takes immediate action.

The Sinn Fein councillor described proposed Housing Benefit cuts as “notices to quit,” adding: “Unless the DSD Minister acts now to introduce practical measures to counter a British government directive to implement swingeing cuts to housing benefit we will face a crisis in the new year.

Colr. McMahon continued: “To date, single people over 25 were entitled to Housing benefit for a one-bed-roomed self contained flat while those under 25 could only access help with rent for a single room in shared accommodation. However, as and from January, an estimated 6,000 private rental tenants across the north face a 50% reduction in their Housing Benefit entitlement.

“Given that the private rental sector in Strabane is disproportionately made up of single men in the 25-35 age bracket, and given the absence of social housing alternatives, there isn’t enough multiple occupancy housing in areas like Strabane. The reduction in Housing Benefit assistance to half of the average rental rate, is tantamount to a notice to quit come January.

“It is not just Sinn Fein who have been flagging up the seriousness of the impending cuts as senior officials from the Housing Executive have also informed the DSD Committee that the Minister is steering his department towards a total crisis in local housing.

“Is Nelson Mc Causland going to just sit on his hands until the fall-out happens? He must act now.

“Many of those who will lose their accommodation do not have the kind of family ties that might support them in a crisis.” Colr. McMahon warned in conclusion: “Our homeless accommodation is already bursting at the seams and so the spectre of a major homeless crisis in the New Year looms large.”