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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Seminar on future Rent, Regulation and Inspection in Social Housing

The second in a series of seminars looking at the different facets of the Social Housing Reform Programme (SHRP) is being held in NICVA on 29 September 2014 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm.

It will consider potential changes to rent policy, scrutiny and regulation. With input from the Department for Social Development (DSD) and Housing Rights Service, the seminar will be addressed by Dr Jenny Muir, Lecturer and Director at the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queens University Belfast.

Rent control and harmonisation

The issue of rent is obviously a key consideration in the future development of the social housing sector, particularly for tenants who are focussed on affordability. However any new rent policy must also provide for the maintenance of existing stock and the long term sustainability of the sector.

Currently DSD determines the annual the Housing Executive (NIHE) rent increase and last year the Minister agreed to a 2 year policy, limiting annual increases to the Retail Price Index plus 1%. Housing Association rents are however not subject to formal control. Nevertheless DSD has encouraged Housing Associations to fix their annual increases at or below the level which is applied to the NIHE.

Final decisions however remain with Housing Associations and generally they have set rent increases above inflation and at rates higher than those set for NIHE. For example, in the decade 2001-11, Housing Association rents increased by 83%, compared to just 36% for NIHE properties – a difference of approximately 47% (although this has to be caveated as the Housing Association figure includes service charges). In Great Britain there is a more formal rent setting regime and the differentials between public and Housing Association rent levels are much narrower.

The Department proposes to take forward detailed work to develop and consult on a rent policy for social housing later this year. Initial research and analysis carried out by DSD suggests it is possible for a rent policy to be developed and applied within the existing legislative and regulatory framework based on these key principles:

  • Affordable;
  • Simple and transparent;
  • Sustainable; and
  • Support Investment.


In January 2013 the Minister for Social Development announced proposals to overhaul the delivery of social housing in Northern Ireland through the Social Housing Reform Programme (SHRP). The SHRP has been split into four main projects:

  • Rent, Regulation and Inspection project: looking at options for rent policy and regulation of social housing in Northern Ireland.
  • Departmental Functions, Governance and Local Government Engagement project: focusing on departmental functions and how the structures will interact.
  • Regional Housing Body project: looking at the options for delivery of the regional (non-landlord) functions of the Housing Executive in the future.
  • Landlord Re-structuring project: looking at the options for delivery of landlord functions of the Housing Executive in the future.

The series of events is being organised by NICVA and Housing Rights Service in association with DSD.

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Social Tenancies

This article was written on 11 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.