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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights calls for a housing-specific outcome in the Programme for Government 

Housing Rights is supportive of the broad ethos of the draft outcomes framework. We welcome the focus on outcomes, achieved by cross departmental working. However, together with CHNI, CIH and NIFHA we are urgently calling for a housing-specific outcome. Without this outcome, we believe the draft framework fails to deliver lasting and positive change where it is needed.  

Programme for Government fails to fulfil New Decade New Approach commitment 

Housing Rights highlights the failure to honour the NDNA commitment to a specific housing outcome. The commitment was:  

“The parties agree on the need for continued attention and priority to be given to housing within the Programme for Government 2020 and beyond." 

Housing Rights recommends that the NI Executive honour the commitments contained in the New Decade New Approach deal. This includes the specific housing outcome in the Programme for Government (PfG). The draft outcome was:  

“Every household has access to a good quality, affordable and sustainable home that is appropriate for its needs.” 

Housing Rights supports co-design approach 

Housing Rights also welcomes the NDNA commitment to develop the PfG through a process of engagement and co-design.  

However, Housing Rights questions the extent of the Department's engagement with the sector on the absence of a housing outcome. 

Why should Housing be a standalone outcome?  

Housing Rights rejects the idea that housing is an “enabler” for many other outcomes rather than a wellbeing factor in its own right. Finding a safe, secure and affordable home to live in is an end it itself which “makes a real and positive difference to people’s lives”.  

Homelessness levels are too high and will rise as a direct consequence of the social and economic fallout from the pandemic. On December 31 2020 the social housing list stood at 42,665, over 10% higher than it had been on March 31 2020. 

Impact of Covid-19 on housing  

Indeed, the importance of “home” and the impact of not having one has been brought into even sharper focus during the coronavirus pandemic. Our clients' experiences during the crisis has reinforced the importance of having access to a safe and secure home.  

It is vital that housing and homelessness are Executive priorities. A specific housing outcome will drive the collaborative behaviour which will achieve this. 

Housing outcome requires cross departmental working  

Housing Rights believes delivering a housing outcome would cut across departments. The areas would include: 

  • Housing and Health. The cost to the NHS in dealing with with ‘poor housing’ is around £39.5 million per year. 

  • The Cost of Homelessness. The estimated annual cost of each homeless presentation in 2015 ranged from £4,972.36 to £36,119.34. 

  • Housing and Criminal Justice. 60% of offenders surveyed in 2012 believed a place to live would help stop them reoffending. 

  • Housing and economy. A specific housing outcome would drive economic growth through construction and associated industries.  

Housing should be included as a key priority area  

Housing Rights welcomes the inclusion of housing as a key priority area (KPA), under Outcome 2, Outcome 8 and Outcome 9. Housing Rights believes housing should also be a KPA under each of these outcomes: 

  • Outcome 1: Our children and young people have the best start in life  

  • Outcome 3: We have an equal and inclusive society where everyone is valued and treated with respect  

  • Outcome 4: We all enjoy long, healthy active lives  

  • Outcome 5: Everyone can reach their potential  

  • Outcome 6: Our economy is globally competitive, regionally balanced and carbon- neutral  

  • Outcome 7: Everyone feels safe- we all respect the law and each other 

Outcome 8 is that we should have a caring society that supports people throughout their lives. The outcome fails to refer to homelessness, nor to issues in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). 

Programme for Government should reference key strategies 

Housing Rights believes the PfG should also refer to: 

  • Housing Supply StrategyThis is a key strategy in development yet is not referenced anywhere in the document.  

  • Homelessness Strategy. This provides strategic direction for addressing homelessness in NI yet is not mentioned under the outcomes  

To learn more, read our response to the Programme for Government Draft Outcomes Framework.

This article was written on 19 March 2021. 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.