Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Shock at £740 million Housing Benefit expenditure

18 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that many people will be shocked to learn over the past 4 years that almost £740 million was paid out to the private sector, including to Private landlords.

The figures released by Margaret Ritchie (AQW 1152/07) show that since 2003/04 that £738,907,030 was paid out to tenants in private rented accommodation and in non Housing Executive registered social accommodation.

These figures do not include housing benefit paid to Housing Executive tenants.

Commenting on the figures Mr O'Dowd who is Chair of the Assembly's Public Committee said:

"Although the department fails to give a breakdown of what money has gone to private landlords or to social housing groups it is clear that there is a huge amount of money there for private landlords to profit from.

"The unrestricted operation of private property speculators, particularly those who have fed the growth of the buy-to-let market have had a hugely damaging impact on both the rental sector and the property market.

"The huge under provision in social housing means that more and more people are sucked into the private rental market often where benefits payments do not cover rent costs. Private landlords make huge profits which they use to buy up further properties. The net result is to push up housing costs making it hard particularly for first time buyers, young people and providers of social housing to compete.

"If even only 50% of the monies paid out to private landlords was instead used to build social and affordable housing by the Margaret Ritchie's department it would see those monies being recycled through the income received by Government to allow more Social and affordable housing to built.

"I believe that there should be a much closer eye kept on housing benefit expenditure with a clear breakdown on what monies are going into the social housing sector and to the private sector alongside a clear analysis of what rents are bring charged by private landlords." ENDS

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