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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights Service getting housing on NI's agenda

In her final post for Housing Rights Service, Nicola McCrudden, Policy & Communications Manager, outlines our policy agenda for Northern Ireland.  Nicola is leaving HRS to take up the post of Director of CIH for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

At HRS we get calls every day from people who don’t have a home or who are worried about losing their home. Our advisers do their best to help with these problems because we understand the impact of homelessness on people’s lives. HRS is essentially about preventing homelessness and improving lives. We do this on two levels: on an individual case basis and also at a strategic policy level- but we always make sure we are informed by our clients’ experiences. Giving clients a voice is central to our policy work.

I have had the privilege to lead HRS policy work for over a decade.  It has been both rewarding and, at times, frustrating.  I have learned to be patient, as achieving positive change locally can take some time – but when it happens it can make a huge difference. So, never give up!

This is a momentous time for housing in Northern Ireland, with policy development being driven by financial pressures and the need to deliver a better housing system. With this in mind HRS has set out its Policy Agenda for 2014-18.

Accessing decent, affordable, sustainable homes

The Policy Agenda covers a number of themes which link to the Northern Ireland Housing Strategy. Access to decent, affordable, sustainable homes is a major priority for our clients. We fully support the need for new social housing supply, but also want to see the private rented sector becoming a more viable and attractive longer term option. This will necessitate greater security of tenure, easier access, better redress and a right to repair. A fair and effective system for social housing allocations is also high on our agenda, as is a fair rent-setting policy. Housing conditions are vitally important to people’s health and wellbeing, and that is why we will be advocating for a tenure-wide  Housing Health and Rating System to replace the current fitness standards.

Supporting the most vulnerable and meeting their needs

A high priority for us is meeting the needs and supporting the most vulnerable. Making sure that those people in greatest need get the right support at the right time is critical to tenancy sustainment and homelessness prevention. That’s why we are asking for a statutory assessment of support needs under homelessness law.  It makes sense to know what services are needed to help families and individuals to keep their homes. We are also big Housing First advocates and will continue to support the development of these initiatives locally.

Getting the structures right

With the reform of social housing well underway, HRS wants to see Government getting the structures right. This isn’t just about the landlord element, but considers how and where regional services will be delivered.  We will make the case for existing and future tenants’ voices to be heard throughout the process and, ultimately, in any new regulatory framework for housing.

With the likelihood of further cuts to public expenditure and a slow economic recovery, HRS anticipates continued demand from homeowners and tenants facing debt related possession action. We, therefore, see pressing need for new Government policies and initiatives that support those at risk of losing their homes and provide those in greatest need with good quality, affordable housing options.

To find out more, read Housing Rights Service’s detailed policy agenda.

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This article was written on 26 September 2014. 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.