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NIFHA welcomes new Minister’s pledge on mitigations, stresses need for urgent action

NIFHA, has welcomed the Communities Minister’s commitment to extend welfare reform mitigations.
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Ben Collins is chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA). He said that Minister Deirdre Hargey’s promise to ensure that mitigations are immediately extended is

“very welcome recognition of the need to prevent thousands of families on low incomes and people with disabilities being penalised for circumstances beyond their control.”

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, Minister Hargey said she’d

“highlighted the need for recurrent funding for welfare mitigations in order to protect those already struggling as a result of welfare reform from being penalised further”.

She also pledged to ensure that extensions are in place before the 31st March deadline.

Mr Collins welcomed the appointment of Deirdre Hargey as Minister for Communities, as well as Paula Bradley being named Chair and Kellie Armstrong Deputy Chair of the NI Assembly Committee for Communities, saying “all three have demonstrated their support for social housing and welfare reform”.

While welcoming Minister Hargey’s comments, Mr Collins also expressed concern that Treasury funding may fall well short of what is needed to fulfil the promises set out in the deal which the parties agreed.

“We need to extend mitigations and reverse reclassification of housing associations straightaway to prevent our housing crisis from getting even worse.

“NIFHA calls on all those in Government to fulfil the promises made in New Decade, New Approach, starting with the immediate reversal of reclassification and extension of welfare reform mitigations.”

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  • With record numbers of homelessness and more than 26,000 people living in housing stress in Northern Ireland, there is an urgent need to stop the crisis from escalating further.
  • 1 in 6 homes in Northern Ireland are either social or affordable and housing associations build around 1800 homes each year, making the sector the largest developer of housing.
  • If mitigations aren’t extended before the 31st March deadline, thousands of social housing tenants would have to foot the bill for the resulting £23m shortfall in rents.
  • if housing association debt is not reclassified, the number of new social homes built each year could be cut by as much as 50%, meaning even fewer new builds to deal with housing waiting lists. Housing association debt of £1bn would also become public debt, which would impact on government’s ability to invest in vital services and infrastructure.