Tenant support fund commended at UK Affordable Housing Awards

A fund which supported two thousand social housing tenants dealing with financial hardship across Northern Ireland has been commended at this year’s UK Affordable Housing Awards.
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Choice Housing’s Tenant Support Fund allocated a total of £750,000 over a two-year period to support individuals and families by focusing on household and fuel payment support schemes.

The UK Affordable Awards, which recognises excellence in UK housing and showcases associations work in local communities, named Choice as winner in the ‘Financial Inclusion Initiative of the Year’ category. The support fund was introduced in 2021/2022 as part of the Association’s Financial Inclusion Services and allocated funding of £250,000 to assist tenants experiencing financial hardship.

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In its first year of operation, 470 tenants used the initiative and as a result the fund was expanded in 2022/2023 with an increased budget of £500,000 to help tenants.

To deliver on the Framework, Choice established a Service Level Agreement with Bryson Charitable Group to administer the awards in voucher form for fuel poverty and by means of purchase, delivery, installation, and removal of old goods relating to household items.

Carol Ervine, Choice Group director of tenant and client services, said: “The UK Affordable Housing Awards acknowledges the work the social housing sector does across the UK with a particular focus in a number of categories in how the sector supports tenants and the wider communities we operate in. Due to the continued rise in the cost of living because of soaring energy and food bills, it is our duty as a social landlord to provide support to tenants, with a focus on the most vulnerable.

“Developed as part of the Tenant Support Fund, the initiative aimed to provide financial assistance in areas that were causing, for the most part, the most negative impact financially. Schemes to support heating and electricity costs, along with food and household items, were prioritised.”

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Many tenants don’t present as struggling financially but by prioritising their rent this leaves them with little money to survive on. The Choice Financial Inclusion team engages with tenants, attends community events, and visits schemes to actively seek out those who need help.

Choice also works with a number of partners to deliver a wide range of financial support initiatives to tenants, including Housing Rights Service NI and Advice NI.

Carol added: “With over 45,000 people requiring housing assistance across Northern Ireland, there is a growing need for sustainable housing that offers tenants independent living, along with the provision of social and financial support and this is a priority across the sector in Northern Ireland.”

Choice developed further partnerships with two well-established charitable organisations already working in the areas of food poverty and home starter packs. This collaboration helped Choice deliver the Fund and reached 4,000 households throughout Northern Ireland.

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