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Stewart Smyth's 3 wishes

Stewart Smyth is a lecturer at Queen’s University Management School, Belfast. Before joining academia, Stewart worked for many years as an accountant in industry, practice and the public sector.

He researches and writes on the neo-liberalisation of public services and social movements, including public housing and grass-roots tenants’ campaigns.

Below he describes what he would ask for if granted three wishes by the Housing Genie.

  1. Allow the NIHE to borrow – the landlord function of the NIHE is financially sustainable and research shows that it would only need to borrow a modest amount all of which would be paid back within the thirty year timeframe. The Minister only has to change the financial memorandum between his department and the NIHE, to effect this change.
  2. Invest in a new generation of first class, affordable and sustainable public housing – there are strong social and economic cases for investing directly in public housing. As of March there are over 40,000 on the waiting lists, with over 20,000 considered to be in housing stress. Further, research shows that for every £1 invested in construction £2.84 is generated in economic activity.
  3. Re-invigorate the independent tenants’ movement – a plan of action needs to be developed that will re-invigorate the tenants’ movement. The active participation in and control of public housing by the tenants is essential in a democratic society. This is not a wish for more consultation through surveys or highly structured tenant forums. Instead, resources (both time and money) need to be made available to grassroots tenants organisations that can then hold their landlord and politicians to account.

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This article was written on 25 October 2013. 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.