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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Future of housing action plan

The Department for Social Development released its Housing Strategy "Facing the Future" for consultation in October 2012. With little fanfare, the Department has now published an Action Plan to deliver this strategy.  The plan sets out a number of objectives and actions for the next four years (to 2017) and includes the key themes originally proposed in the consultation paper:

  1. Ensuring access to decent, affordable, sustainable homes across all tenures
  2. Meeting housing needs and supporting the most vulnerable
  3. Housing and Welfare Reform
  4. Driving regeneration & sustaining communities through housing
  5. Getting the structures right

Department hopes to achieve high-level outcomes

33 specific actions are listed in the plan.  Each has targets and timescales.  The Department hopes to achieve a number of high level outcomes by following the plan.  These are: 

  1. Better housing management, with a more efficient and targeted use of resources;
  2. Better regulation, with an increased focus on the interests of tenants and citizens, and reduced red tape;
  3. Greater flexibility and responsiveness, as circumstances and market conditions change;
  4. Continued fairness for citizens, regardless of tenure and consistent with the need to support those who are most vulnerable; and
  5. Implementing new structures that can support the above outcomes. 

Progressive measures to assist vulnerable households

The Action Plan contains a number of measures which will assist vulnerable households .  These include

  • plans to reduce the impact of repossessions, through the establishment of a working group, and
  • ensuring that housing advice is available for people impacted by Welfare Reform.

In response to suggestions from consultees the DSD has also prioritised the promotion of equal opportunities in housing in NI and included some actions to develop more shared communities.

Delay to regulation of private rented sector

We're delighted to see a planned review of private rented sector.  However, this target date for implementation is in 2016/17. This timescale is particularly disappointing given the recent delays in implementing landlord registration.

Housing fitness standards are also up for review. The DSD is committing to review the standard across all tenures and introduce new legislation during 2015-16. Those who responded to the consultation were generally in favour of a more robust standard such as the Housing Health and Rating System used in Britain.

Actions relating to the Social Housing Reform Programme are not concluded within the Action Plan as the DSD argues a separate plan is under development for the restructuring of the Housing Executive. There is currently no further detail regarding the DSD’s thoughts around this process.

The Department intends to monitor progress towards the completion of the plan through annual business planning and quarterly progress checks.

You can read the whole action plan online and read our response to the strategy below. 

Tagged In

Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies, Policy, NI Assembly

This article was written on 4 July 2013. 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.