The Northern Ireland Assembly election is due to take place on Thursday May 5. In the run-up to the election, political parties putting forward candidates will be publishing their manifestos.
A manifesto is a document which sets out what policies a political party will seek to implement if their candidates are elected. We at Homeless Connect, working with our members, developed a manifesto which sets out ten policies we believe would make a real difference in preventing and reducing homelessness here.
As each party publishes their manifesto, we will be profiling each parties commitments in the areas our manifesto covers.
On 21 April, People Before Profit launched their election manifesto. Some sections of note include the following:
Cost of Living Crisis (p7)
“We would: Cut rents and increase housing benefit: Rents are rising quickly as energy prices soar. We need legislation to cut and freeze rents and increase the Local Housing Allowance on which housing benefit rates are based.”
Housing and Homeless Crisis (p17-18)
“We have a housing crisis that is being allowed to spiral out of control. The past year saw the highest number of homeless applications (nearly 45,000) and people in housing stress (30,000) and the lowest number of housing allocations in the past decade. Average rents in the private sector have continued to rise and house prices are at their highest level since the 2008 crash.
The Stormont Executive has failed to deliver any meaningful intervention to protect people, opting instead to continue the same failed policies as before. We need a radical change in direction to address the housing crisis.
Rent Controls and Reductions
Gerry Carroll MLA proposed a 10% reduction in rents for the private rental sector – a short-term solution to help with the cost-of-living crisis which the Executive Parties voted down. If re-elected, we will continue to push for permanent rent controls and protections for renters, including those in housing associations.
- Establish a Rental Board: with responsibility to maintain minimum accommodation standards via accommodation inspectors, secure tenancy leases, register agreed rents, and reduce existing rents to below 2011 levels.
- Cut and cap rent at 20% of tenant’s income: with the option for the tenant to involve the Rental Board to mediate. In the event of loss of or reduction in income by the tenant, rents to be revised downwards, the shortfall to be made up through the social welfare system.
- Rent caps to be introduced on all dwellings valued at or below half a million pounds.
- Legal right to a minimum lease of five years: with an option to renew for further periods of five years.
- Annual rent increases should be based on inflation and can not exceed the CPI.
Public Housing On Public Land
The currently planned target of 2,200 new social rented homes per annum would take over twenty years to house everyone on the current waiting list. This is unacceptable.
The state holds significant amounts of land – the Department for Communities is currently carrying out a survey to establish all of the public land holdings. This land needs to be used to build public housing and not gifted to private developers to subsidise their profits.
People Before Profit is in favour of revitalising the NIHE, and crucially, enabling a policy and funding environment where the backlog of maintenance and repairs can be addressed, the Housing Executive can re-commence a major programme of new home building, and new secure employment can be created by employing thousands of tradespeople and creating apprenticeships on secure public sector employment contracts.
Specifically, PBP supports:
- Extending the social housing grant scheme to allow the NIHE to bid for new funding, and an increase in targeted public investment.
- A massive expansion of public housing building to address the waiting lists.
Nearly 40% of all new homeless cases are due to unfit existing accommodation or evictions. To reduce the waiting lists we need to first stop them from growing further. People Before Profit would:
- Introduce a moratorium and ban on evictions that would result in homelessness.
- Institute a policy of “Housing First” to address rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness; as in US and Canadian cities and some EU countries.
- Introduce fiscal measures such as a land value tax or public sector equity holdings to encourage timely and appropriate development of new housing.
- Democratise housing policy through greater transparency in planning decisions, the introduction of social impact statements and the funding of
independent tenant and civil society scrutiny.”