In a wide ranging statement to the Assembly today, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín set out her plans to address the significant challenges facing our housing system.
Over the last 18 years successive Executives have invested £2.3billion to build 30,000 new social houses. But, at the same time, the number of our households in housing stress has increased by 17,000. The Minister said it was time we faced up to the fact that change is needed if we are to ensure that every household has access to a good quality, affordable and sustainable home that is appropriate to its needs.
The Minister said: “My ambition is to ensure that every household has access to a good quality, affordable and sustainable home that is appropriate to their needs. I have outlined my plans to address some of the most significant challenges. These are challenges that I will not shy away from. Everything I do will be focused on ensuring equality, focused on addressing the highest need and focused on fundamental transformation.”
Central to the Minister’s plan to increase the supply of social housing and reduce housing stress is to revitalise the Housing Executive. She outlined her intention to:-
- Change the status of the landlord part of the Housing Executive so that it may borrow, invest in its homes and ultimately build again;
- Consult on the Housing Executive’s House Sales Scheme to protect the current supply of social housing;
- Reintroduce ring-fencing of the new build Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) to prioritise certain areas of highest housing need;
- Introduce reform of the social housing allocations system; and
- Ensure the Housing Executive prioritise adaptations.
The Minister said: “I will revitalise the Housing Executive. The huge investment challenge facing the Housing Executive is a long-standing issue. I plan to change the classification of the Housing Executive landlord to a ‘mutual’ or co-operative designation so that it may borrow and secure a sustainable future for all of its 85, 000 homes and provides security for current tenants and future generations.
“We need to build more social homes, and we need to build them where they are needed. We need to sort out the long term future of the Housing Executive. We need to make sure it can repair its homes, regenerate its estates and start building again.”
Turning to the Private rented sector the Minister added that she intends to introduce legislation to the Assembly to improve the safety, security and quality of the Private Rented sector. Key areas of reform include extending the notice to quit period, ensuring rent is fair and considering an enhanced role for councils in registration and enforcement.
Other areas covered in the Minister’s statement include her intention to:-
- Develop new ways to help people into homeownership, continuing to support shared ownership schemes such as Co-Ownership; Expand the rental options available by introducing intermediate rent here which will provide an additional supply of good quality, well managed and maintained homes, which are affordable for lower-income families.
- Develop a fundamental Housing Supply Strategy to provide a framework for delivery of the right volume and types of homes to meet changing housing needs and demand and put mixed tenure at the heart of our housing policy: and
- Prioritise action to improve our response to homelessness.
The Minister said: “We need to make our social housing system work better. We need to make sure it is fair and helps the people and families who need it most. I have set out a way forward on a number of important issues. We can no longer afford to talk as housing stress spirals out of control. We need to get on with it.
“Equality and Rights are the basis of my approach, and you can’t get more basic than the right to a home.”