Ark Housing Association is calling on all political parties to take urgent action on the passing of new legislation to safeguard against the loss of welfare mitigation payments on 31st March 2020 and to overturn the reclassification of housing associations as public bodies.

Ark Housing’s Chief Executive, Jim McShane stated “Tens of thousands of people, who are already struggling financially, will find themselves even worse off when welfare mitigation payments end in March. Families on low incomes and people with disabilities will be worst affected by this issue and, as seen with the “bedroom tax” in other jurisdictions, they may struggle in the longer term to keep a roof over their heads. Failure to address this matter now could impact up to 33,000 families in Northern Ireland and I would urgently call on all parties to take immediate action in this regard.

In addition to the issue of welfare reform mitigation payments, there are just 100 days remaining before our ability as a social housing provider to deliver more homes and services to those in need is impacted by the failure to address the reclassification issue. Successive Secretaries of State have publicly committed to passing the necessary legislation in respect to reclassification, but if it is not reversed by March 2020, housing associations may no longer be able to match government grants with private funding to deliver new social homes putting the entire social housing programme at risk.

With the number of families in housing stress at an all-time high, with poverty and austerity already impacting thousands of people, these are critical issues that require an urgent response. The time to act is now”.