Image: Eileen Patterson, Director of Communities, Radius Housing
By Una Murphy
A top manager at Northern Ireland’s biggest housing association said politicians must develop a bespoke devolved housing policy.
Eileen Patterson, the Director of Communities of Radius (Northern Ireland's newest housing association) said the housing policy must address the implications of the social security policy (which is overseen by Westminster) and introduce measures to secure the future provision of new social housing in Northern Ireland.
She warned that the future delivery of new build social housing could become “economically unviable” due to changes to welfare benefits.
Ms Patterson who chaired the recent Supporting Communities/Housing Rights conference at the Skainos Centre in east Belfast said the event was timely as benefit changes are now impacting on many households In Northern Ireland.
Ms Patterson told the conference: "These changes may also have a direct impact on the future delivery and viability of social housing as we know it.
"The changes to welfare benefits are being implemented in line with Social Security Policy and if the proposal to limit the rent element of Universal Credit to the Local Housing Allowance levels is introduced then this could result in making the future delivery of new build social housing economically unviable.
"Housing is a devolved administrative matter and we do believe that all the political parties in Northern Ireland are committed to continuing to provide social housing. If this is to be achieved, then Northern Ireland urgently needs to develop bespoke devolved housing policy which will address the implications of the social security policy and introduce measures to secure the future provision of new social housing.
"Housing Associations and housing professionals in Northern Ireland are committed to continuing to develop social housing to address local housing need."
Ms Patterson appealed to all involved in providing, funding and regulating housing to work together to develop effective housing policy rather than just be led by social security policy.
• See Welfare reform conference: 'How am I going to feed my children' - http://viewdigital.org/2017/05/10/welfare-reform-conference-i-going-feed-children/