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Northern Ireland's housing model slammed by minister

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Northern Ireland's housing model slammed by minister

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Development

Northern Ireland's housing model slammed by minister Northern Ireland's housing model slammed by minister

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive's current model has been slammed by a minister who has claimed that it is "unsustainable".

Social development minister, Nelson McCausland, has written to the Northern Ireland Assembly to make a number of proposals following a review of the Executive by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The minister wrote: "Whilst 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.”

Mr McCausland's proposals include creating a sustainable housing model and supporting business improvements in the social housing sector for the benefit of tenants and taxpayers.

He also wishes to see the development of a sustainable financing model for social housing that provides access to private funds to allow future investment, and wants to improve the regulation and inspection of landlords and provide effective services and good quality housing for tenants.

The minister continued: "I acknowledge there is much detailed work to be done in taking these proposals forward.

"I believe it is key for stakeholders to be consulted throughout the programme, therefore, processes for communication and engagement with staff and stakeholders will be an important part of the overall work programme."

Mr McCausland's proposals have been welcomed by Cameron Watt, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA). He said: "Today’s announcement is good news for tenants, taxpayers and people in housing need in Northern Ireland.

"The Northern Ireland Housing Executive deserves great credit for its achievements over the last forty years. It has made huge progress in providing good homes, regenerating communities and ending discrimination in social housing. Our members value and are proud of our successful partnership with the Housing Executive, for example in developing new homes and delivering Supporting People services.

"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.

"There is a shortfall in funding of over £1 Billion that has to be filled to bring existing Housing Executive homes up to a good standard.

"That’s why we welcome confirmation that the new landlord function for the Housing Executive housing stock will be out with the public sector.

"We expect the new landlord function will be in the housing association movement, building on the success of existing associations. These are thriving social businesses that have already secured £500 million of private investment in social housing.

"NIFHA believes there is a compelling case for independent regulation of rented housing in Northern Ireland, as recently introduced in Scotland and England. This would provide most reassurance for tenants and certainty for landlords, and we’ll continue to make this case ahead of the housing bill.

"We congratulate the Minister, Department and Northern Ireland Executive on this significant step in making the necessary reforms to our housing system, and look forward to working with them in the coming months as detailed proposals are developed."

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