Demand 'to outstrip housing supply'
Published 11/03/2013 | 18:06
It could take years for social housing provision to match the level of need in Northern Ireland, the Social Development Minister has warned.
Demand for appropriate-sized accommodation will dramatically outstrip supply once the controversial bedroom tax comes into force, Nelson McCausland said.
"It would take quite a number of years to ensure that we actually have the right provision ... whether that be single-bed accommodation or two-bed accommodation ... to have it in the right parts of the province that need it. But, that could take some years," Mr McCausland said during Question Time at the Assembly.
The under-occupancy penalty, which takes effect elsewhere in the UK next month, means people in receipt of housing benefit will have to pay for any bedrooms the law deems are not essential.
The UK Government claims the move will protect taxpayers from having to pay for a two or three-bedroom house for a single person.
Critics have branded the bedroom tax unfair, particularly for the 26,000 Housing Executive and 6,000 housing association tenants in Northern Ireland where there are fewer one-bedroom properties.
Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the Housing Executive worries that it cannot meet the needs of all the people who may be forced to move.
The under-occupancy penalty is not expected to become law in Northern Ireland until at least June or July when the Welfare Reform Bill is put before the Assembly.
New analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing shows that three-fifths of people on housing benefit in Northern Ireland (62%) would be hit by the under-occupation penalty, compared with a third across Great Britain (33%).
Mr McCausland said leaflets are being prepared for distribution in Northern Ireland in an effort to dispel "mis-information".