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Classification of Registered Housing Associations in Northern Ireland: Consultation Two- The Future of the House Sales Scheme

Housing Rights has responded to the Department for Communities’ “Consultation on the Classification of Registered Housing Associations in NI: Consultation two – The Future of the Housing Sales Scheme”

We welcome the chance to be able to respond to this important public consultation. It is Housing Rights’ view that Option Three – ending the Housing Sales Scheme for both the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Registered Housing Associations, is the preferred option.

Housing Rights has offered the organisation’s views on why this Option is pursued, and made other recommendations. Below is a summary of the key points raised.

• Housing Rights recommend that Option Three is the preferred option, when considering the future of the HSS in NI.

• Housing Rights believe that the context of the current landscape of the SRS is important when considering the proposals contained within this consultation.  At present there are 37,611 people in NI on the housing waiting list for a social home. Notably however, only 10,440 allocations were made last year, this is the lowest number of allocations in 9 years; allocating housing to less than 30% of those on the waiting list and to less than18% of those who were found of be FDA.

• Housing Rights believes Option Three creates equity and ensures that all tenants have equal legal social rights both during their tenancy and from the outset. Housing Rights has concerns that choosing Option Two could have a detrimental impact on allocations, leading to a situation where upon receipt of an offer an applicant has a further consideration to make e.g. will they take a secure tenancy that does/does not have the right to buy their property. A natural consequence of this could be that individuals may decline offers, this could lead to the slowing down of allocations and an ineffective use of social stock.

• Housing Rights’ view that there is a disproportionate number of individuals who have purchased their social home via the HSS who have experienced financial difficulty and/or repossession. It is the experience of Housing Rights’ advisers that these individuals may also more likely to hold mortgages with “sub-prime” lenders, who are less willing to negotiate and/or offer forbearance, often leading to homelessness and the need to be rehoused

• Housing Rights are aware that there is currently a Departmental proposal to discharge the homeless duty into the PRS. Housing Rights suggest that the HSS has created a reduced stock which, coupled with the low number of social homes being built, has meant that there is an increased pressure to look towards the PRS to replace this diminished social stock. Housing Rights have already made representations to the Department on concerns of the readiness of the PRS to provide this accommodation.

• Housing Rights suggest it is essential that there are transitional arrangements in place to safeguard both social landlords and tenants. Housing Rights believe that it is paramount that the need for reversal of the ONS reclassification is balanced with the current legal rights of existing tenants.
• Housing Rights have concerns the equality impact assessment may have been misapplied. Housing Rights would recommend that further statistical data is retrieved and a more in –depth impact assessment linked to tenant/applicant profiles, is carried out.

Read the full response here. 

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Sarah Corrigan

This article was written on 21 September 2018. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.