An east Belfast mother has accused the Housing Executive of “punishing her for going out to work”.
Louise Nesbitt, from Tullycarnet estate, has told the Community Telegraph the Housing Executive are expecting her to “become homeless” before they will consider rehousing her.
Ms Nesbitt lives with her son and dog in a private landlord’s residence and has recently returned to work, losing her housing benefit.
She said: “They said I’d be £20 better off a week, but my housing benefit has dropped by £200 and I’m not even making that in a week.
“My landlord hasn’t threatened to throw me out and hasn’t given me a letter to quit yet. But he did say because I am so far behind that he’ll have to get a notice to quit.”
Ms Nesbitt said her inability to pay had made the relationship with her landlord “strained”.
“The longer I stay here the more debt I go into. I’m going into hundreds of pounds of debt every month,” she said.
“No one at the Housing Executive wants to hear anything about it.
“They fill your head that it is all going to be fine getting a job, but when you go out to work they don’t want to help you any more.
“The Housing Executive would rather wait until you’re out on the streets before they will help.”
Ms Nesbitt said she did not want her son living on the streets and she didn’t mind where she was re-housed, so long as her son was safe and he wasn’t living in a hostel.
“It’s frustrating when you see houses sitting empty. In Tullycarnet alone there are houses in Vionville Rise, Melford Drive and the Kings Road flats. I know this because I knew people who lived in them and they’re still empty,” she continued.
“I’m not being fussy, I will live anywhere I can afford, but I have zero points on the system unless I get a notice to quit. Which means my son and I will be homeless before the Housing Executive will help us.”
Commenting on Ms Nesbitt’s plight, a Housing Executive spokesperson said: “Ms Nesbitt, who is currently living in privately-rented accommodation, has applied to be housed by the Housing Executive in the Tullycarnet area of Castlereagh.
“Ms Nesbitt’s housing need is for two-bed accommodation and her application has been assessed in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme. Unfortunately Ms Nesbitt’s current housing situation does not warrant the award of any points under the Housing Selection Scheme, but she will remain on the waiting list.”
Michael Copeland, UUP Assembly candidate in east Belfast said: “Over the past five years almost £1.3 billion in housing benefits has been paid to non-Housing Executive landlords.
“This has had the effect of supporting rent levels in the non-Housing Executive sector at an unsustainably high level.
“These circumstances are increasing under which the Housing Executive must operate.
“Here we have someone who actually cannot afford to go out to work. It’s a classic case of where the system has gone wrong and something has to be done about it.”