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DFC Briefs Housing Practitioners' Forum on Future of House Sales Scheme

Shane Clements from the Department for Communities (DfC) briefed members of the Housing Practitioners’ Forum on DfC’s current consultation on the Future of the House Sales Scheme, which closes on 24 September.

House Sales Scheme

Currently, tenants of the Housing Executive and Registered Housing Associations (RHAs) are eligible to apply to purchase their property once they have lived in the property for 5 years. Northern Ireland has a compulsory House Sales Scheme and it is currently a legislative requirement for social landlords to seek approval from DfC to sell housing stock.

In light of the level of control DfC has under legislation, the Office of National Statistics took the decision to reclassify NI Registered Social Housing Providers to the public sector in September 2016. Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Mr Clements indicated that this decision means RHAs, who are currently the only social landlords building new properties. They can no longer access private financing (which had matched the level of public funding) and that this will result in the number of properties being built by RHAs being reduced by half if it is not possible to secure an increase in public funding.

DfC are currently consulting regarding the future of the compulsory House Sales Scheme and have proposed the following options:
1. Do nothing;
2. End House Sales Scheme for RHAs only;
3. End House Sales Scheme for RHAs and NIHE.

DfC are also seeking feedback regarding a potential transition period for ending the scheme. The consultation can be accessed here.

Information update

Following the DfC briefing, an information update was provided on the following matters:
• Social Security Advisory Committee's consultation on Universal Credit amended regulations and transitional protection measures;
• Roll out of Universal Credit (Holywood Road and Ballynahinch will have Universal Credit introduced on 5 September);
• New own Initiative powers for the Public Services Ombudsman to investigate organisations within her jurisdiction where there is suspicion of systemic maladministration;
• Successful legal challenges against letting agents who had charged tenants upfront letting fees;
• Recent case law regarding claimants in receipt of Severe Disability Premiums who were deemed to be discriminated against following migration to Universal Credit.

All member organisations are invited to the Forum and, as it is a benefit of membership, it is free to attend.

Benefits of the Housing Advice Practitioners Forum: 

• An opportunity for shared learning;
• The chance to discuss local practice;
• The opportunity to develop networking relationships with other housing advice practitioners;
• The opportunity to share work experiences and tips for improvement;
• The chance to improve communication between agencies;
• The opportunity to be briefed by external organisations on particular topics of interest;
• The opportunity to raise housing issues, arising from their own agencies, which have the potential of being carried forward as policy issues.

To find out about becoming a member, please contact Coral.

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Legislation, Research, Practical tips

This article was written on 7 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.