Tenant vote could lead to five new regional associations forming
NIHE’s 90,000 homes set for five-way split
The 90,000-home Northern Ireland Housing Executive is likely to be split into five separate associations if tenants vote for a stock transfer.
An announcement on the future of the NIHE has been due since the start of the year, but has been delayed due to wrangling between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, the two largest parties in the Northern Ireland government, over the exact nature of the deal.
A number of major UK housing associations are understood to be interested in expanding into Northern Ireland should the five-way split get the final sign-off.
Ministers have strongly suggested they will end the NIHE’s landlord role and leave it responsible for strategy and funding. It has been unclear whether this would involve transferring stock to a single giant landlord or in several smaller packages.
Sources close to the talks say politicians are now most likely to split the landlord part into five smaller housing associations, to correspond with the five geographical areas in which
Any split would be subject to tenants voting in favour of a transfer but is fraught with difficulty because the NIHE is popular and has a good record of promoting community cohesion.
It is understood that an announcement on the decision from social development minister Nelson McCausland is now likely to be delayed until September.
A spokesperson for the NIHE said the organisation was keeping its 3,000 staff informed of any changes, but that it continued to function as normal at the present time.
Paddy Gray, professor of housing at the University of Ulster, said: ‘I’ve noticed when I’ve been into the NIHE that staff are quite worried about the future.
‘The NIHE has performed a mammoth task over the last 40 years given what’s happened in Northern Ireland - it’s helped both sides of the community and my worry is that we would lose that with any major break-up.’
Both the DUP and Sinn Fein declined to comment.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is established
Homes owned by the NIHE
NIHE annual budget
Number of staff employed by the NIHE