Housing chiefs in Northern Ireland have expressed alarm at potential budget cuts they claim will have a “devastating” humanitarian and economic impact.
In an open letter to Neil Gibson, permanent secretary in the province’s Department of Finance, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), and Homeless Connect, have set out their concerns.
Both organisations warn the impact of potential budget cuts for the Department for Communities (DfC) could have a “devastating effect on Northern Ireland’s housing crisis. The letter is signed by 15 of the province’s housing organisations and social landlords.
The letter emphasises the “severe consequences” for some of the most vulnerable members of society if potential reductions in the budget are implemented. Furthermore, it highlights that budget cuts will undermine the progress and hinder the DfC in achieving its strategic objectives, particularly in the areas of the supply of social housing, delivery of homelessness services, and the economy.
This warning comes as Northern Ireland’s housing waiting list hits an all-time high with 45,615 households on the list and 4,469 households in temporary accommodation.
Justin Cartwright, CIH national director for Northern Ireland, said: “We are deeply troubled by the potential budget cuts looming over housing.
“The proposed cuts to the capital budget are particularly alarming, as they threaten to impede the construction of much-needed social housing at a time when the demand has reached unprecedented levels. The construction of new social homes is not merely a statistic; it is a lifeline for thousands of vulnerable individuals and families facing housing stress.
“Beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns, there are broader economic ramifications to consider. Investment in social housing has consistently demonstrated a powerful multiplier effect on the economy, creating jobs, stimulating local businesses, and contributing to overall economic prosperity.”
Nicola McCrudden, chief executive of Homeless Connect, added: “As the representative body for the homelessness sector, we are very concerned about potential budget cuts for homelessness and supporting people services.
“Over the last decade, the number of households with homelessness status has more than doubled to reach over 27,500. The need for temporary accommodation is the highest I can recall and is increasing month on month. The pressure on the system cannot continue and we fear for the consequences if funding for housing and homelessness isn’t given the priority it needs.
“Charities who provide homelessness services have been financially squeezed for many years and are experiencing staff retention and recruitment problems. Whilst the need for support has risen, the level of resources provided has not. The homelessness sector and our statutory partners are working incredibly hard to support people experiencing homelessness. However, without the level of resources the sector needs, the situation is going to worsen for many services and ultimately the people who require them.
“Any form of cut to the supporting people programme or the homelessness services budget is unthinkable. To implement a cut would put us even further away from dealing with the homelessness crisis here and would detrimentally impact thousands of people, including children.
“We need social housing, properly funded services to support people experiencing homelessness and investment in homelessness prevention.”
The letter specifically addresses concerns related to the capital budget, the potential impact on the supply of social housing, the economy and net zero, implications for public health and people in housing need, resource budget, the Supporting People programme, homelessness services budget, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Image credit: Nigel Stripe/Shutterstock
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