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Coronavirus: Hargey to protect struggling tenants from being evicted

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Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

The Communities Minister has pledged that social housing tenants who struggle to pay their rent during the coronavirus crisis will not be evicted.

Deirdre Hargey outlined a package of measures to ensure people continue to have secure accommodation in the midst of the pandemic.

Steps include support and assurance for social and private renters as well as support for the homeless.

Ms Hargey said: "This is a worrying time for everyone and I am very aware that there is an increased level of anxiety in our community.

"The last thing anyone needs right now is to add the security of their home to those worries.

"I want to assure renters, homeowners and those in a homeless situation, that I am putting measures in place to provide crucial support."

In relation to social housing tenants, Ms Hargey said she had secured an agreement with all social housing landlords­ - Housing Executive and Housing Associations - that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during the crisis will not be evicted.

She added: "I have also been assured by Co-ownership for those facing difficulties keeping up with their payments, that their customers' homes are secure and that both Co-ownership and mortgage lenders will treat these issues with sensitivity and support their customers during a difficult period."

She said anyone experiencing difficulties paying their rent through loss of employment for example can get help with their housing costs by applying for Universal Credit online.

For private renters, the level of rent due to landlords may be more than the housing cost element of Universal Credit.

Ms Hargey added: "My department is making changes to help households that have lost income to pay their rent.

"An increase in Local Housing Allowance rates from April 1 will provide additional financial support for private tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit. In addition, anyone who has lost their job and who signs on to Universal Credit can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to have their full rent paid for 13 weeks."

For homeowners, the Chancellor has also announced that mortgage lenders will offer at least a three month mortgage holiday for homeowners.

This has now been extended to cover 'buy to let' mortgages, to help landlords cope with lost income.

Separately yesterday, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said there is enough food in Northern Ireland to feed the city of London and that it is important the supply chain is maintained during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the effect of members of the public panic-buying over the last few weeks has proved challenging as the workforce falls but demand rises.

"Numbers are down 10% in the workforce and demand is up so that's a very challenging position," Minister Poots said, speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster.

"The truth is that there is loads of food in Northern Ireland, we produce enough food to feed the city of London not just Northern Ireland and we will keep doing that as long as we keep processing it."

Belfast Telegraph