29 Mar 2021

Northern Ireland Executive makes ‘strong commitment’ to social housing

Capital investment in new social and affordable housing has steadily increased, rising by almost £43 million in Northern Ireland between 2012 and 2020 according to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual UK Housing Review 2021. This investment has reached £132 million in 2020/21.

Despite the rise, the number of social homes built annually – averaging around 1,500 per year – has fallen short of the 2,000 homes the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) says are needed. The review states there may be other constraints on housing supply, apart from investment levels, which government has pledged to examine as part of a new housing supply strategy.

The publication also warns that structural funding problems continue to hinder NIHE’s ability to invest in its existing homes, which total around 85,000. Spending on improvements and maintenance fell significantly in recent years, from £178 million in 2018/19 to £135 million budgeted in 2020/21.

In December, steps were taken to address the NIHE funding challenge with plans announced to convert its landlord arm into a mutual or co-operative body, enabling it to borrow. The review notes the announcement and explores questions raised by the proposal.

Justin Cartwright, CIH Northern Ireland director said:

“The review shows the strong financial commitment to social and affordable housing from the NI Executive, which is very welcome and will help more people to keep a home particularly as society recovers from the pandemic.

“The fact that a direction of travel has been identified for the Housing Executive shows apparent willingness to face what has been a difficult political issue. It is important that a long-term future for the organisation, its stock and its service to tenants, now takes specific shape within a reasonable timescale.”

John Perry, CIH policy advisor and one of the review’s main authors said:

“The announcement to reform the Housing Executive is a welcome indication of progress in addressing a thorny issue, but the proposal raises several questions in its turn. Experience in the rest of the UK has shown that, even where substantial backlogs of work need to be addressed, tenant support may be difficult to achieve.

“There are also important questions around what the financial and governance arrangements will be, which will undoubtedly influence the outcome.”


The UK Housing Review 2021 is authored by Mark Stephens, John Perry, Peter Williams, Gillian Young and Suzanne Fitzpatrick.

The UK Housing Review is available to purchase in PDF format from the CIH bookshop, price £35. Previous years’ editions and material from UK Housing Review 2021 will be available at the UKHR website.