Northern Ireland Federation of Housings Associations (NIFHA) has announced that its members have committed to going further to support their tenants this winter, when the cost of living crisis will have the most impact on vulnerable people.
Housing associations, which manage a combined 55,800 homes across Northern Ireland, have made a series of commitments to ensure that all their social housing tenants, particularly the most vulnerable, will be provided with additional support and that the associations will be pro-active in supporting tenants who are in financial hardship.
The commitments are aimed at ensuring those in financial hardship can continue their tenancies and housing associations are encouraging tenants to get in touch if they are struggling to make ends meet. Housing associations are providing essential financial planning support for tenants who are in rent arrears. The central goal of these commitments is to reassure tenants about the support housing associations will provide and highlight how they can seek help.
Housing Associations in Northern Ireland already provide additional services to tenants, including welfare advice and signposting to other support services. But with huge rises in energy costs and on essentials like groceries, NIFHA and its members recognise that additional support and clear commitments on how they will deal with difficult circumstances are essential to ensure tenants are protected.
Today, to complement the ongoing work already undertaken with tenants, the associations are committing to:
- Be proactive in seeking to identify and support those who are experiencing difficulty in paying their rent to ensure that tenancies continue;
- Provide access to income and benefit entitlement advice;
- Communicate support available to tenants and encourage them to actively engage with their landlord if problems arise.
Patrick Thompson from NIFHA launches the Cost of Living Commitment with Bridgeen McCormick, Head of Housing at Connswater Homes
Patrick Thompson, Interim Chief Executive of NIFHA, said “Housing associations are much more than landlords, they provide a wide range of wraparound support services to improve wellbeing and sustain tenancies. As we face this cost of living crisis, nobody is able to avoid the impact of rising prices and social housing providers know that additional support and assurance is essential for their tenants. The sector is responding with positive and often innovative ways to help tenants meet the challenges of rising costs. Recently we’ve seen some associations going door to door to understand tenants needs, provide energy saving advice, and even offering cookery lessons to help tenants save money.
“The commitments being made today to identify and support tenants who are struggling with their rent, or are experiencing arrears is of paramount importance. Landlords will support those who are struggling, with budgeting advice and benefit entitlement checks and will build upon the work already being done. The aim is to make sure that all tenants know that they can come to their social housing landlord to talk about the financial challenges they face, and that action will be taken to support them. It is important that tenants engage as early as possible with their landlord if they have any concerns about their ability to pay their rent, and housing associations will always work with tenants to help.”
Catherine Feely, Advice Services Manager Housing Rights “Our experience at Housing Rights is that it is critical that people get help early when they are having difficulty meeting their housing costs. We know that some tenants might be worried about how they will afford their homes this winter and would encourage them to engage early with their landlord or with an independent advice provider like Housing Rights.”