Over 80% of private landlords in Mid Ulster paid housing benefit

Social housing
Social housing

From issues like housing benefit costs and growing waiting lists to lifts in living rooms, the Housing Executive was truly grilled at a special meeting of Mid Ulster District Council.

The department gave a presentation to councillors last Thursday about future plans for Mid Ulster, while reporting on last year’s investment.

Some stand out figures from the Housing Investment Plan [HIP] include the 83% [4,500] of all private rented accommodation in Mid Ulster being paid for with housing benefit.

Although the report also said “anecdotal evidence would suggest... some tenants are now struggling to make up the difference between housing benefit and rental charge”.

A suggestion Cllr Monteith raised concerns about. He said: “If you can get a four bedroom for £106 a week, I have plenty of families that would bite your hand off for it.”

As well as issues surrounding rising rental costs across the district, 51% of Mid Ulster homes are also in fuel poverty, with the organisation last year forking out £15.3m of the £29.4m it paid to the private sector, on this issue.

Another problem the report raised is the 1,022 families or single people in housing stress with just 361 allocations made in the past year.

Yet the projections for new homes needed is just 565 for the next five years.

Chair Linda Dillon also asked questions about single people on waiting lists.

“To have any chance of getting a house in Coalisland you have to have up on 140 points” - something she said is impossible for those on their own.

And UUP councillor Trevor Wilson queried the number of empty houses in the district - 36 according to the Housing Executive.

With a proposed spend of £9.26m in the area over the next year, Housing Executive representatives said they would come back to council with answers to their many questions.

Speaking at the presentation, Comghal McQuillan, the Housing Executive’s South Regional Manager said: “The Housing Executive works hard to maintain a good working relationship with councils and it is important this continues.”

Some facts and figures

Mid Ulster holds 50,236 homes which house a total of 141,329 people according to 2013 figures

Of those 50,236 homes, 72 per cent are privately owned with a further 16% being privately rented and just 9% social rentals

Of the 5,373 registered private landlords in the area, around 4,500 of them are being paid housing benefit, that’s over 83%

The private rental sector has grown by 175% in the region between 2001-2011

Meanwhile 1,022 people were said to be in housing stress in the area as of March this year with a further 565 in housing need - but only 361 Housing Executive allocations were made between 2014-15 and it said the projected need for social housing is just 565 units in the next five years

Over 50% of people in Mid Ulster are also living in fuel poverty - one of the worst affected areas in Northern Ireland

36 homes also currently stand empty