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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Policy & Research

Our policy work is based on the experiences of people who contact us for advice. We work on their behalf to secure positive changes to housing legislation, policy and practice in Northern Ireland. You can read more about what we are striving to achieve in the coming year by downloading our policy priorities.

Below, you will find copies of policy briefings, consultation responses and research papers that Housing Rights has produced recently.

Briefing Paper on the Fundamental Review of Social Housing

In 2012, the Minister for the Department for Social Development (DSD) announced a Fundamental Review of social housing allocations in Northern Ireland. The review was carried out by the Universities of Ulster and Cambridge who conducted discussions with a number of stakeholders and reviewed best practice in the allocation of social housing in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The final research report contained the recommendations in this briefing (though these do not necessarily represent the views of DSD) The Department is inviting feedback on the recent reports following a review of social housing allocations in Northern Ireland. It will publish a summary of the responses and its final proposals. These proposals will be subject to full public consultation. It is expected that this will take place late in 2014. The deadline for comments on the reports is 4 March 2014.

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Social Tenancies, Policy

Response to NIHE draft community involvement strategy

Housing Rights Service has contributed evidence to a recent consultation exercise on the Housing Executive’s community involvement strategy. Although we have a number of concerns with this draft strategy we nevertheless believe that by involving tenants and listening to what they have to say, social landlords can make better business decisions; create excellent services; save money; and encourage customer loyalty and satisfaction. Resident involvement in social housing is therefore about how tenants, or others living nearby, can influence and improve a social landlord’s activity. The remit of such an influence can range from contributing to decisions on local service delivery to membership of the landlord’s governing body. We believe community involvement is an aspect that should be high on the agenda of the current Social Housing Reform process and the future governance of social landlords. Involving tenants in running their homes is now an established principle in social housing and we look forward to further discussions with NIHE in taking forward this strategy.

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Social Tenancies

Response to the OFT consultation on Guidance for Lettings professionals

Housing Rights Service has responded to a consultation exercise carried out by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on draft guidance for lettings professionals. We welcome this initiative as we have identified through our casework many difficulties and issues relating to the management practice of letting agencies. Nevertheless we remain to be convinced that the many problems encountered with the lettings industry will be solved by simply encouraging letting agents and landlords to become better informed and equipped to comply with existing consumer protection legislation. We believe greater regulation is necessary and look forward to working with OFT, DSD and Trading Standards in Northern Ireland for greater tenant protection in private rented accommodation.


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Private Tenancies, Policy

Response to Rent Arrears Protocol

Housing Rights Service is fully supportive of the aims of this pre action protocol. It is a very positive step which we hope will encourage more pre action contact; promote the benefits of getting good independent advice; and, above all, help to avoid costly and unnecessary legal action. In our experience, tenants whose cases have ended up in court are generally unaware of the legal consequences of a court order. We are therefore wholly supportive of the Lord Chief Justice’s decision to issue a Practice Direction in cases of social housing rent arrears. As the protocol states “Eviction should always be viewed as a last resort and should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted.”

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Social Tenancies, Legal

Response to Rates Reform

Housing Rights appreciates that DFP is facing the major challenge of meeting the 10% Westminster funding cut for rates support while trying to ensure that assistance remains available for the most vulnerable. We broadly agree with the preferred approach and that existing levels of support for those who are least able to pay should be retained. Housing Rights is concerned about the impact of the funding shortfalls imposed by Westminster. However in this context, the ‘least worst’ option would be to make up savings from removing or reducing other rating support measures and allowances for households. We are aware that the removal of this support could have a negative impact on some low income families. We therefore recommend that the Department considers developing a hardship scheme.

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