17 Dec 2021

Looking back at 2021- CIH Northern Ireland

It has been a year of impending change for housing policy in Northern Ireland (NI), despite much of this change being in its infancy. Below is a roundup of key strategic policy areas that your Northern Ireland team has been working on in 2021. As our members you can expect to see continuing progress in these areas of policy development in the year ahead.

Notice to Quit

This year we have been working alongside the Department for Communities (DfC) on changes to Notice to Quit periods (NTQ) in Northern Ireland. As it stands, in NI the current minimum statutory NTQ period for tenants and landlords is four weeks. The Private Tenancies Bill that is currently making its passage through the Assembly is committed to extending NTQ periods. To assist this progress, we carried out substantive research with tenants and landlords on the department’s behalf – as well as looking at NTQ periods elsewhere. We will be facilitating two consultation events to enable tenants and landlords to help shape this change. For more information on this, please get in touch with our policy manager Heather Wilson.

Revitalisation of the Housing Executive

Last year, the then DfC minister announced a major review of housing in NI. As part of that review, it was revealed that the Housing Executive would undergo reform that could see it become a mutual or cooperative body, enabling it to borrow off the public spending sheet and instead seek private finance to help it maintain its current housing stock and begin rebuilding new homes again. To date, CIH has held a number of public engagement sessions with housing professionals to discuss what this will mean for the communities we serve and how it could be delivered practically. Our chief executive Gavin Smart now sits on the revitalisation expert advisory panel.

Programme for Government

This year, alongside three other leading housing and homelessness organisations, (NIFHA, Housing Rights and Homeless Connect) CIH committed to calling for housing to become a standalone outcome in any forthcoming programme for government. Our collaboration emerged after the sector learned that housing as a key outcome was omitted in the draft outcomes framework. Together with these organisations, we worked to advocate for its inclusion through high level political engagement and a wider sectoral campaign. As we move into 2022, and an election year, we will continue to work together to call for its implementation. This, we believe, is a significant priority for the people of NI. You can continue to follow our campaign on Twitter using #housingoutcomeNI

Housing as a profession

We are delighted that this year we have progressed our work to establish a housing apprenticeship as a route for school leavers to enter the sector. After the closing of the housing degree at Ulster University, the need to have alternative routes into the industry became increasingly clear to CIH and sectoral leaders. We are working with sectoral partners towards the first cohort of apprentices being enrolled in September 2022 marking the beginning of their career as housing professionals.

Looking ahead into 2022

As we enter an election year in NI, the opportunity to continue to be a voice for housing professionals will be more pronounced than ever. It is after a few chaotic years thrown up by the pandemic, where housing professionals answered the call to some of the most acute problems in society, that we are intent on raising the profile of housing and its importance to health and well-being to decision makers. We will also continue to show our commitment to ensuring that our members receive the professional recognition they deserve by helping to embed professionalism across the housing sector in NI.