New deal, new decade for housing in Northern Ireland?

Following publication on Thursday 9th January of a new draft power-sharing agreement for Northern Ireland, CT Senior Associate Consultant Nicola McCrudden analyses what this could mean for housing.

Stormont Parliament Buildings

The recently published draft deal for Northern Ireland – New Decade, New Approach, contains a number of significant references to housing which confirms local parties’ commitment to tackling housing stress through increased supply of social and affordable housing.

Under the current outcome based draft Programme for Government, housing is viewed as an enabler and not as a specific outcome, such as infrastructure, health, education and the economy.

This is about to change.

Agreement on the way forward for a restored Executive recognises the immediate challenges in tackling housing stress. Housing will become a specific priority for government, alongside the economy, hospitals, schools, welfare concerns and mental health.

The draft deal document features housing under the heading: ‘Delivering a fair and compassionate society that supports working families and the most vulnerable’.

It includes:

  • introducing legislation to reclassify housing associations to enable them to continue building new social and intermediate housing, including Co-ownership homes;
  • enhancing investment and agreeing a target for new social and affordable home starts; and
  • tackling the maintenance backlog for Housing Executive properties.

Additionally, there is commitment to extending existing welfare mitigation measures beyond March 2020, such as those currently in place for the bedroom tax.

Should the parties sign up to the deal, a priority action under the Programme for Government in 2020 will be the inclusion of a new outcome with:

…specific focus on ensuring every household has access to a good quality, affordable and sustainable home that is appropriate for its needs

There will be enhanced investment in new social homes.

There are many challenges for the Housing Executive, and this is recognised in the draft deal.

There is a commitment to examining options for the removal of historical debt and to exclude payment of Corporation Tax.

Also, to agree a long-term trajectory for Housing Executive rent charges to support the future of its housing stock. However, there must be a balance to ensure that rents are affordable for tenants, which may be underlined by controls through legislation.

This is a new deal for housing and has the capacity to have a positive impact on thousands of families and people living in housing stress and experiencing homelessness.

Having a safe, affordable, good quality home is a fundamental need  – promoting better health, education and employment opportunities.

If the parties sign up to this agreement, housing will be prioritised by government. This means there will be a renewed focus on delivering more homes that are genuinely affordable and supporting those who are most disadvantaged in our society.

To discuss this article, contact Nicola McCrudden:

Versions of this article are also published in Inside Housing and 24 housing and Belfast Telegraph.

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors.

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