Friday, 01 August 2014

Northern Ireland Housing Executive to be broken up

The biggest landlord in Northern Ireland will be broken up and its homes transferred to housing associations, the social development minister has announced.

In a written statement issued this morning, Nelson McCausland set out his plans to split the Northern Ireland Housing Executive into landlord and strategic functions, with strategic issues staying within the department and landlord functions moved to the private sector.

The Department for Social Development, supported by a regional housing body, will take responsibility for overall housing strategy, policy, legislation and funding, plus regulation and inspection.

By transferring the organisation’s 90,000 homes to housing associations, the government hopes to attract private investment in the stock.

The department will also establish an independent social housing rent panel which will agree annual rent levels based on a rental policy.

In his statement, Mr McCausland said: ‘While the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has had a long history of delivering social housing and has enjoyed the widespread support of Northern Ireland society, the current model is simply not sustainable, does not make best use of public resources nor does it allow sufficient flexibility and focus on supporting tenants and meeting their needs now and in the future.’

The department will now work on developing each strand of the new system. ‘The time-critical issues for the first phase will be the urgent consideration and evaluation of legislative changes which will be required to support the new delivery model,’ Mr McCausland’s statement said.

The announcement comes after months of delay and uncertainty about the future of the organisation. The NIHE has gained popularity through its work to allocate housing fairly since 1971.

Cameron Watt, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said: ‘The NIHE deserves great credit for its achievements over the last 40 years. It has made huge progress in providing good homes, regenerating communities and ending discrimination in social housing.

‘But times change and new structures are needed to guarantee high quality social housing in future, not least to secure private investment to refurbish the executive’s 90,000 homes and to build new social homes.’

The department has not yet announced which housing associations might be involved.

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