NI federation urges assembly to change UK plans
Northern Irish housing associations are calling on the new ruling assembly to overturn unpopular housing plans introduced by the UK government.
The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations has written to all members of the legislative assembly urging them to suspend changes that would weaken the role of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which received devolved power this week.
The executive is due to lose responsibility for the Supporting People programme to seven new ‘super councils'.
Chris Williamson, chief executive of the federation, said that plans had been widely unpopular and should now be reversed.
‘In Great Britain social services is a local authority function – it is not in Northern Ireland. The people working in local authorities have absolutely no idea about social services.
‘The key point is that the legislation is going to have to be changed to put into effect these [Northern Ireland minister] Peter Hain proposals. They [the assembly members] have a very clear opportunity there.'
The federation also called on the members to up the housing budget to allow 2,000 extra social homes to be built every year. And Mr Williamson said assembly members should also encourage both authorities and the executive to release more land more cheaply for housing. ‘
As a priority assembly members should insist officials devise a more integrated system which enables housing associations to buy surplus public sector sites at reasonable prices,' he said.
He also called on the executive to be given substantial new compulsory purchase powers to allow regeneration and housing projects to proceed more quickly.