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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

What is the future of social housing in Northern Ireland?

Earlier this year the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, announced a series of proposals to reform social housing in Northern Ireland. In his statement, the Minister said “...change in structures is required to ensure we can continue to deliver well maintained housing stock, improve the focus on strategy and ensure value for money for taxpayers in the future.”

Proposals to reform social housing In NI

In his statement the Minister set out a number of proposals:

  1. Strategy and policy – that the Department for Social Development (DSD) will continue to have overall responsibility for housing strategy, policy, legislation and funding.
  2. Regulation and inspection – for the landlord function of the Housing Executive to be subject to inspection and registration under the DSD in a similar way to other social housing providers. For the DSD to have additional powers to intervene and give direction when shortcomings are found.
  3. Rent Setting Regime – to establish a new Independent Social Housing Rent Panel which will agree on annual rent levels for social housing.
  4. Regional Housing Body – that the non-landlord functions which the Housing Executive currently have are moved to a new Regional Housing Body, consisting of housing professionals and experts. The functions which may be transferred include:

- administration of the common selection scheme,
- assessment of need,
- Social Housing Development Programme,
- Warm Homes, and
- Supporting People. 

  1. Housing Executive’s Landlord Function – that the landlord function of the Housing Executive be separated to allow appropriate focus on this area of service provision to tenants and to ensure that the landlord function can access private funding to allow suitable investment. Any new landlord function may be positioned within the Housing Association movement.
  2. Review of the Housing Council – that the Housing Council is reviewed in light of the role of Assembly and Assembly scrutiny, Local Government Reform proposals and the future functions of Councils. 

Taking the proposals forward

The Minister’s proposals were only the first step in looking at the reform of social housing. In order to carry this forward the DSD has recently begun work on its Social Housing Reform Programme; whereby the proposals will be explored.
The stated aims of the Social Housing Reform Programme are to:

  • improve housing structures; making the system financially sustainable;
  • ensure delivery of well maintained housing stock and increase the investment in social housing;
  • improve the focus on strategy and regional delivery of services; and
  • allow social landlords to play a more proactive role in the communities they serve.

The programme will be overseen by a Board made up of:

  • The DSD
  • The Northern Ireland Housing Executive
  • The Department of Finance and Personnel
  • The Strategic Investment Board, and
  • A senior civil servant not involved in housing.

An expert panel has also be established which is made up of a voluntary panel with expert knowledge in housing/finance and law.


The programme will be in place for three years with final reforms being implemented by March 2017. The first stage of the programme will involve setting up appropriate ‘design principles’ i.e. the principles which the programme will consider and use to design the most appropriate ways to take forward the reforms. To establish their design principles the DSD will be meeting with a range of stakeholders to discuss their expectations for the future of social housing and benchmarking best practice in other areas of the UK. They will also be creating a stakeholder section on their website (www.dsdni.gov.uk) which will include a stakeholder section containing up-to-date information/presentations/discussion papers.

Listening to the voice of tenants

Following on from the importance of stakeholder input; effective tenant involvement is the most important action a landlord can take. By involving tenants and listening to what they have to say, landlords can make better business decisions, create excellent services, save money, find lasting solutions to problems and encourage customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Achieving Excellence through Tenant Involvement

Housing Rights Service and Supporting Communities NI have come together to offer an exclusive one day conference ‘Achieving Excellence through Tenant Involvement’ which will fully explore the topic of tenant involvement.

We have already secured a host of expert speakers from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.  The conference will:

  • Inform participants about the benefits of involvement from both landlord and tenant perspectives
  • Provide examples of participation models: what works and what doesn’t
  • Examine the principles of regulation and how it can work better for consumers
  • Explore tenant involvement in stock transfer decisions
  • Open up discussion about involving tenants in the Social Housing Reform Programme.

The one day conference is being held on 12th December in the MAC. Book online at www.housingrights.org.uk, call 028 90245640 or email frances@housingrights.org.uk

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Social Tenancies

This article was written on 23 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.