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People on low wage can’t afford rent

CONCERNS: Cllr Stevie Corr is questioning the disparity between housing association and Housing Executive weekly rents CONCERNS: Cllr Stevie Corr is questioning the disparity between housing association and Housing Executive weekly rents
By Ciara Quinn

A WEST Belfast councillor has claimed “there is an urgent need for a radical overhaul” of housing association rents, as the weekly rent difference between them and the Housing Executive is “creating a massive cost difference for those in employment”.
Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr spoke of how there is a “real and very serious practical issue” around rent costs in many areas that is leading to people on working low-to-medium income jobs being “priced out” of their tenancies and also from being allocated social housing.
“The Housing Executive haven’t raised their rents for a number of years and have also sold off almost half of their stock under the ‘right to buy’ scheme brought in by Thatcher in the mid-1980’s,” explained councillor Corr.
“Basically housing stock owned by the Housing Executive in West Belfast has been halved.”
“There is nowhere near the amount of Housing Executive properties available now. That means that 50 per cent of the most affordable homes are no longer available in West Belfast.”
Cllr Corr continued: “The reality for us and for many many people in West Belfast who are looking for a home is the massive difference in rents between the Housing Executive houses and housing association houses,” he said.
Cllr Corr said he has had numerous tenants seeking advice over their current housing association rents and that the monetary difference between that and a Housing Executive tenancy agreement could be between £50 and £70 per week.
“Rents are decided by a housing association board, whose homes are part-funded by the Department for Communities (DfC) but who also need to repay loans taken out for house construction, while the Housing Executive is a totally different set up.
“What you are finding is that housing associations are pricing out working families, especially people on low paid income who cannot afford their rents.
“People are stuck. In extreme cases people have had to give up their tenancies and go back to live with their parents in what is now being referred to as the ‘boomerang generation’.
“We need a radical overhaul, to increase massively the amount of affordable housing, and we need to have housing-led regeneration for many disadvantaged areas.
“People who are working are forced into private rental as they can’t get a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage in West Belfast you are forced to look to Glenavy, Crumlin or Lisburn. People are having to leave their family support network, which in turn puts more pressure on those trying to access childcare and schools. There is now an opportunity to take this radical analysis and put it into practice.
“The Housing Executive need to build again, houses that people can afford as we

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