‘Bedroom tax’ fears over NI Assembly collapse

A protest against the introduction of bedroom tax/housing benefit changes at Guildhall Square in Londonderry held in 2012
A protest against the introduction of bedroom tax/housing benefit changes at Guildhall Square in Londonderry held in 2012

Thousands of Northern Ireland’s least well-off households stand to lose around £20 a week if the Assembly collapses, a housing advice charity has warned.

Commenting following the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Monday, Housing Rights NI said welfare reform measures such as the ‘bedroom tax’ could be introduced within weeks – rather than the previously agreed March 2020 commencement date.

DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said welfare reform cost the Stormont Executive £174 million.

“Yet in a bizarre irony, the decision to resign and walk out of the Northern Ireland Executive means there will be no Assembly to pass the mitigation measures that were due from the Stormont House Agreement and so Sinn Fein will be delivering the bedroom tax in Northern Ireland in six weeks’ time,” Mr Robinson added.

Housing Rights NI said around 34,000 homes could be affected and called for “urgent consideration of all available options to ensure local households are not negatively impacted”.

It said: “Unlike the mitigation arrangements for some other welfare changes, such as the benefit cap, no regulations to mitigate the impact of the Social Sector Size Criteria (bedroom tax) have yet been brought forward.”

Kate McCauley of the charity said: “We are concerned that if the current political uncertainty continues it could have unintended consequences for people living in social housing who stand to be impacted by the bedroom tax.

“If the regulations to make arrangements for supplementary payments are not brought forward, an alternative solution must be found.”

Ms McCauley added: “Housing Rights would encourage urgent consideration of all available options to safeguard tenants’ homes.

“This should involve stakeholders including those who represent tenants and landlords.”