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Concern over millions paid out to private landlords

26 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Fra McCann MLA has voiced concern at millions paid out to Private Landlords in Housing Benefit over this past year. In total £55,203,995 was paid out in the Belfast area in the past year, 70% of which went to private landlords. This is an increase almost £16 million in this past 4 years.

Mr McCann said:

"Housing Benefit is an essential aspect of government responsibility to those in our society who can not meet their rent payments. To learn that 70% of this money has went into the private rented sector raises serious questions the huge amounts of money spent over this past 4 years - £187 million in Belfast. Had a strategy been in place just think how many social and affordable homes could this have built?

"We are in the most serious housing crisis in the past 60 years. People are being forced into the arms of a unregulated private sector - a sector which in many ways get paid twice, once by the government and then by the tenant. Sinn Fein have called for stricter controls particularly where the speculative influence is partially responsible for the mess we are in.

"The buy-to-let market has grown over this past number of years and the rents set by the private rented sector by far surpass that of the Housing Executive, which is also forcing people into debt. A review needs to be carried out to look specifically at this sector and how they set their rents.

"If one considers how many houses this huge amount of money could have built it could have ensured that many of those sitting in privately rented accommodation could be enjoying a social house or an affordable home." ENDS

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