Housing commission calls for strategy to transform housing
The Independent Commission on the Future for Housing in Northern Ireland has called for a new Housing Strategy that sets the policy direction for the next ten years.
The Commission launches its final report on Friday 28 May 2010 at a conference of housing professionals in Newcastle, Co. Down.
Despite the backdrop of public expenditure cuts announced this week, the Commission heralds a key moment for housing – with more need than ever for a Housing Strategy underpinned by new approaches and new partnerships within the housing sector. It argues that mutual co-operation and joint ventures are key to transforming housing in the future.
Launching the report, Lord Richard Best, Chair of the Commission, said : “The constraints on finance – from both public and private sources – mean there could be tough times ahead for Northern Ireland. In response to these constraints, a new Housing Strategy should bring together all those concerned with the future of Northern Ireland’s housing. It should end artificial distinctions between the public sector and the private sector, between housing associations and house builders, between building homes for rent and for sale or part-sale”.
Among its recommendations are:
• a Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland which aims to attract sustainable levels of public and private investment; a stable housing supply; the creation of a mixed housing economy; support for greater integration and social cohesion;
• the establishment of a Housing Market Panel to compile data and observe the housing market;
• new forms of investment for social housing and a focus on financial innovation;
• the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to play a central role in enabling partnerships and investment and that it separate its landlord and strategic functions;
• a common set of management standards across social housing to reform the regulatory framework for housing associations;
• a bigger role for housing associations - building schemes with greater mix and working with local communities on regeneration and social inclusion; and
• Housing Executive rents to be set by a Rents Authority for Northern Ireland (RANI)
Lord Richard Best also said that the Commission envisaged a key role for housing in moving on from Northern Ireland’s divided past: “Our Commission has concluded that housing has a special role to play in bringing together people from Northern Ireland’s two communities, through ‘shared future’ housing, by building on neutral sites, and by enabling applicants for social housing to express a preference for living in mixed community housing.” Lord Best will be sending copies of the report to the First Minister and deputy First Minister as well as the Minister for Social Development, the Minister of Finance and Personnel and the Minister of the Environment.