09 Jun 2023

Northern Irish housing sector bodies urge government to review budget cuts

Four major Northern Irish housing sector bodies have today jointly written to DFC permanent secretary Colum Boyle warning of the devastating impact proposed budget cuts for the Department for Communities will have on housing, communities and some of the most vulnerable people in Northern Ireland.

In the letter the sector bodies, Housing Rights, Chartered Institute of Housing Northern Ireland (CIH NI), Homeless Connect and NIFHA stress the budget cuts will set back progression of the NI Executive’s aim to promote wellbeing and will severely undercut the Department for Communities own strategic objectives.

The housing organisations outline several areas of concern which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. These include the huge impact on housing supply and homelessness of the capital budget shortfall and the resulting impact on potential cuts to the supporting people programme, which provides funding for almost two thirds of Northern Ireland’s homelessness services, supporting around 20,000 vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. In addition, the bodies express concern about the impact of services to prioritise homelessness prevention, in line with the government Homelessness strategy.

Justin Cartwright, director of CIH Northern Ireland commented:

“We have deep concerns about the potential impacts of budget cuts on housing and communities. The proposed cuts to social housing and vital services will perpetuate inequalities and hinder progress.

“The waiting list for social housing is already significant, and reduced funding could lead to longer wait times. Discretionary support grants and employment support are underfunded, threatening vulnerable people.

“It is crucial that funding is allocated in a way that recognises the significance of housing as a key strategic priority. Our focus must also extend beyond providing affordable homes – we must also prioritise accessible social security that enables people to thrive in their homes and communities.”

Kate McCauley, CEO at Housing Rights Northern Ireland further commented:

"Housing Rights has deep concerns that the proposed budget cuts will simultaneously increase the risk of homeless while weakening the support available to prevent and alleviate it. This will not only entrench inequalities at a time of increased need; it will undermine government policy to prevent homelessness.”

Seamus Leheny, CEO at NI Federation of Housing Associations commented:

 "Any cuts to funding for vital schemes such as the supply of new social housing and the Supporting People Programme would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

"At a time of economic pressures across all of society, we need to ensure that those most in need are not left behind."