The Housing Executive has deferred a planned rent increase because of the coronavirus.
The housing body said it had planned a ‘modest’ rent increase this month.
However, the increase has been deferred and the Housing Executive has put in place procedures to help anyone in financial difficulty because of the ongoing pandemic.
Despite unprecedented disruption as a result of the Covid-19 situation, the Housing Executive has moved to reassure tenants that work is continuing in the Derry City and Strabane areas.
Area Manager Eddie Doherty insists that while the organisation has had to change how it operates at this time, significant work is happening on the ground to keep tenants secure and protected.
Mr Doherty said, “Our whole focus at this time is keeping tenants safe in their homes – guidance on social distancing and the message of ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ is paramount.
“We’ve published guidance on our website www.nihe.gov.ukwhich deals with key topics like repairs and what to do if you are experiencing homelessness.
“Also we moved quickly to reassure tenants that no one would lose their home due to Covid-19 – enforcement action has ceased and we will deal sympathetically with anyone who is experiencing financial difficulties during this period.
“We had planned a modest rent increase from April; this has now been deferred, and we are signposting people who need financial help to organisations that can provide this.
“One of the most popular actions we have taken is to implement a service for elderly and vulnerable tenants. They receive a regular phone call to see how they are coping; we offer support and reassure them that we are on hand to assist in any way we can.
“Because of our network of 24 patch managers in the Derry City and Strabane areas, we are very well placed to continue to connect these tenants with the outside world.
“We can link them to local action groups providing food and basic hygiene items on the ground, we’ll help arrange pharmacy pick-ups and, in many cases, we will simply provide a friendly voice and a listening ear at this time to reduce any sense of social isolation.”
Mr Doherty said the feedback from tenants and community groups has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Two of our staff are also volunteering in the community after work by delivering food parcels in the Waterside area of the city.
“The local communities across the North West are all pulling together to help everyone, the response is amazing.
“A particular concern has been around payment of rent costs and we have been working hard to assist tenants in making applications for financial support as well as reassuring them that we will help them to sustain their tenancies.
“Throughout the current Covid-19 situation, we have also been continuing to carry out any repairs of an emergency nature to ensure that our tenants stay safe in their homes.
“Tenants should be aware that it may also be necessary to call out to a property, for example, if there is a statutory heating or electrical test due – we must do these by law – in order to keep everyone safe.”
“We have also been engaging positively with our many community groups right across the Derry City and Strabane areas, and we are currently in the final stages of preparing a Covid Assistance Grants scheme that will financially support over 25 of our local community groups that have been doing tremendous work on the ground.”
“Local housing staff have also been helping people who are, or may become, homeless during this pandemic, and as far as we are aware there is no-one sleeping on the streets at this time.”
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