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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Revisiting Northern Ireland's plans for social housing allocation

In 2017, the Department for Communities carried out a consultation into proposed changes to the system of allocating social housing. These proposals stemmed from a number of independent reports commissioned in 2013 to inform the department's plans for a fundamental review of the current allocation system. 

Earlier this month the Minister for Communities announced her intention to advance this review, and to implement all but two of the proposals contained therein. 

The purpose of the review

The review of the allocations of social housing hopes to achieve five key outcomes

  1. A greater range of solutions to meet housing need;
  2. An improved system for the most vulnerable applicants;
  3. A more accurate waiting list that reflects current housing circumstances;
  4. Those in greatest housing need receive priority, with recognition of their time in need’ and
  5. Better us of public resources by ensuring the list moves smoothly.

Minister intends to modify two of the original proposals

In her speech to the Assembly, Minister Carál Ní Chuilín stated that two of the proposals in the original document needed further work. 

The Minister does not intend to remove intimidation points from the scope of the allocations scheme. She acknowledged that the current system is open to abuse, but urged that those in danger in their homes needed to be prioritised under any housing allocation scheme. Rather than remove intimidation points entirely, the Minister proposes broadening the scope under which these can be awarded to ensure that survivors of domestic violence and refugees are considered to be eligible for such points. The Minister will ask her department to consider establishing a statutory body to investigate allegations of intimidation to prevent abuse and provide robust verification of circumstances leading to an award of intimidation points. 

Secondly, the Minister will not progress the original proposal to remove interim accommodation points from the allocation scheme. These points are currently awarded where a household is placed in temporary accommodation by the Housing Executive in line with its accommodation duties set out in the Housing Order (NI) 1988 and remains in such temporary accommodation for at least 6 months. Rather than removing these points, the Minister proposes to extend these to ensure they are available for homeless households living in all types of insecure and temporary accommodation for at least 6 months, even if this accommodation was not arranged by the Housing Executive under its statutory powers. 

Proposals which will be advanced

The 2017 consultation included 20 proposals. All but the 2 outlined above will be progressed, as per the original document. The remaining proposals are:

  1. An independent, tenure-neutral housing advice service for Northern Ireland
  2. Making an applicant ineligible for housing or homelessness assistance if they have been involved in unacceptable behaviour, unless there is reason to believe such behaviour will cease
  3. Allowing the Housing Executive to remove a person's eligibility for homelessness assistance at any stage until they become a tenant if they are involved in unacceptable behaviour
  4. Allowing the Housing Executive to discharge its duties to homeless persons by offering a suitable tenancy in the private rented sector
  5. Removing limitations on the number of areas a person can choose to be housed in, (currently applicants are restricted to 2 housing areas)
  6. Ensuring that all social tenants registered for a transfer are also considered eligible for mutual exchanges
  7. The removal of the "no detriment" rule, which means that a person with Full Duty Applicant status cannot lose points if their housing circumstances change
  8. Introducing a banding system in conjunction with a points system to prioritise applicants
  9. Aligning the overcrowding rules with the size criteria for social security benefits (meaning that children of opposite genders will be expected to share until the age of 10)
  10. Increasing the use of multiple-offers for hard to let properties with no limit to the number of applicants who can receive a multiple-offer for such a property
  11. Adoption of a choice-based lettings model for hard to let properties
  12. Allowing landlords to go directly to multiple-offers if they have evidence that a property is likely to be hard to let
  13. Reducing the number of offers to which an applicant is entitled from 3 to 2
  14. Allowing landlords to withdraw an offer of accommodation in certain limited circumstances
  15. Changes to succession rules to allow landlords to withhold consent to policy successions for general needs accommodation in limited circumstances
  16. Allowing landlords to withhold consent to policy succession requests for adapted accommodation where there is evidence that another applicant will require it
  17. Updating the Selection Scheme to bring it in line with developments in Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland.
  18. Ring-fencing specialised properties, including sheltered housing and accommodation built or adapted to meet the wheelchair accessible design standard and using a separate process to allocate such properties

Housing Rights view on proposals

We recently published a briefing paper setting out our specific concerns in regards to using the private rented sector to meet the housing needs of homeless households. 

Our position on other proposals is set out in our 2017 consultation response. 


Tagged In

Social Tenancies, Policy

This article was written on 23 November 2020. 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.