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Housing (Amendment) Bill: Social Development Committee accept Housing Rights’ recommendations

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The Assembly’s Social Development Committee has published its Report on the Housing (Amendment) Bill. In this, the Committee have accepted two recommendations made by Housing Rights in written and oral evidence.

The Housing (Amendment) Bill was introduced to the Assembly in 2015; amongst other clauses, the Bill aimed to allow information-sharing to and between the NI Housing Executive and registered housing associations in relation to antisocial behaviour.

Housing Rights acknowledges that antisocial behaviour can cause severe distress to the lives of those affected; we therefore recognise the merit in allowing statutory agencies to share relevant information in working together to tackle antisocial behaviour. However, in written and oral evidence to the Committee, we outlined two primary concerns with the Bill as drafted:

  1. The Bill would have allowed for information-sharing under Grounds 1, 2, and 3 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983. Respectively these grounds cover rent arrears and any other breach; antisocial behaviour; and dwelling neglect. We felt that this was unnecessarily wide, and that information-sharing on the grounds of antisocial behaviour should be based upon the relevant Clause 2 alone.
  2. The Bill will also require supplementary guidance and Regulations regarding implementation; we recommended that this guidance should be placed on a statutory basis, to enable decision-makers to work with consistency.

We are pleased to see that these recommendations have been incorporated into the Committee’s Report:

  1. The Minister for Social Development has agreed, at the Committee’s request, to table amendments removing reference to Grounds 1 and 3 in the Bill. This will ensure that information-sharing will be based solely on the grounds of antisocial behaviour. These amendments were tabled by the Minister on 4 January.
  2. The Department has assured the Committee that it will revise the ‘Antisocial Behaviour Guidance for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’, ensuring that proper safeguards are put in place and extended to all relevant authorities engaged in information-sharing in relation to antisocial behaviour. We particularly welcome the Department’s commitment to work with Housing Rights when revising this Guidance.

You can follow the progress of the Housing (Amendment) Bill.

Find out more about dealing with antisocial behaviour

Information on existing remedies and approaches to help deal with antisocial behaviour is available in our Antisocial Behaviour and Housing Professional Resource.

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Policy, NI Assembly, Legal