Speaking this week as Children in Crossfire and Apex launched a new five year funding partnership worth £100,000, Richard Moore said “Apex have been stalwart supporters of Children in Crossfire for many years now, having provided us with more than £200,000 through their fundraising activities. We have achieved a great deal together, making a vital difference in the lives of very many people. Their enthusiasm for our work on Early Childhood Development, in particular, is nothing short of inspiring.
Apex chief executive Gerry Kelly added “We are delighted to renew our partnership with Children in Crossfire, not least because we know what a significant impact our financial support is having. I have seen that for myself first-hand, as have Apex colleagues. We have visited the projects and met with the people whose lives have been changed for the better thanks to our efforts. It is both deeply humbling and truly uplifting to know that money raised here is transforming young lives there. It is our pleasure to work with Children in Crossfire and I look forward to seeing an even stronger partnership with them grow in the years ahead.”
Children in Crossfire was founded in Derry in 1996 by Richard Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet at age 10. Read more about Children in Crossfire at childrenincrossfire.org.
The event, held in the development where Connswater’s 1,000th home is located, was marked by the cutting of a cake by the Chairman Professor Paddy Gray and Chief Executive Jacqueline Locke.
A number of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Councillors were in attendance along with members of the local community.
There was a range of activities for everyone to participate in including gardening, petting farm, complementary therapies and face painting, along with a BBQ, ice cream van and a DJ.
A lovely touch was added to the celebrations as well. Each person attending was invited to add to a unique mosaic by designing their own tile. Gayle Martin, Connswater’s corporate support officer, explained a bit about the project.”
“To symbolise Connswater’s development from its roots in East Belfast to the various locations throughout Northern Ireland, we decided to create a mosaic artwork piece.
“The theme is a tree, to represent the growth of the organisation and branching out to different locations throughout Northern Ireland. Once completed, it will be displayed at the Willows, the location of our1000th home.”
The artpiece was designed by Eleanor Wheeler of Elfire Ceramics. The mosaic artwork will be made up of many pieces, with tenants in all areas having an opportunity to contribute to the mosaic via workshops which will be held during the summer.
Children at the street party also had the chance to to enter two competitions – colouring in and naming the bear – to win vouchers for Smyths Toys.
The Housing Associations Integration Project (HAIP), a unique cross-border initiative aimed at promoting good relations across housing associations in Northern Ireland and the Border Regions, was launched on Wednesdy, 4th July at Girdwood Community Hub, Belfast. The launch event also featured a special appearance by Clanmil Community Choir.
The €1.1m project, which is funded by the EU’s Peace IV Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), will bring together social housing residents from a range of religious and cultural backgrounds to share experiences, learn about differences and embrace diversity in the communities in which they live.
The aim of Housing Associations Integration Project* is to build, improve and sustain positive relationships with local people and their neighbours from different cultures and countries.
Alan Shannon, Chairperson of the project’s lead partner, NIFHA and also chair of the Project Steering Committee for the Housing Associations Integration Project, said at the launch “Peace IV funding has enabled us to secure €1.1m of funding to deliver a significant cross-border social housing project, The Housing Associations Integration Project (HAIP).
First such project to include both Northern Ireland and the border counties
“It is the first initiative of its kind to cover Northern Ireland and the border counties and aims to promote good relations within and across housing associations. The project will be delivered by a new partnership involving four of Northern Ireland’s largest housing associations (Radius, Clanmil, Choice and Apex), TIDES Training, Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), and the Irish Council for Social Housing.”
He continued “The project partners have come together because of their combined scale, regional spread and their experience of promoting and working in good relations. We are looking forward to working with our partners and communities to deliver this exciting project.”
Richard Mealey, Project Coordinator, Housing Associations Integration Project (HAIP) added “The Housing Associations Integration Project aims to support the development of cohesive communities, where residents respect diversity and recognise the value of differing viewpoints in a multi-cultural society. The cross-border dimension of the project is unique, and we look forward to working with the project delivery team in the coming months.”
The roll out of the project in to neighbourhoods will be a staged process consisting of: (1) Community Audit; (2) Community Capacity Building; (3) Cross Community/Cross Border Community Skills Workshops; (4) Bringing the Learning Back and (5) Sharing Best Practice.
Discussing how the project is developing, Mr Mealey continued “Nine community audits across different housing developments have already been conducted, with many more scheduled for the coming months. A total of 40 audits will form the basis, understanding and rationale for all future cross community activity.
“It is envisaged that over 1,000 tenants from 40 neighbourhoods will take part in community building programmes and skills workshops by August 2020. A number of study visits are also scheduled, and we are looking to develop a range of new community-based partnerships which will provide an important channel for residents to meet regularly and share ideas.”
Aims to reinforce peace and stability
Welcoming the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, added “The EU’s PEACE IV Programme has been designed to encourage positive relationships between people from all communities. Unfortunately this region has been left with deeply ingrained issues associated with social segregation, as a result of the troubles/conflict. By improving cross-community relations in up to 40 different social housing areas across Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland this innovative project will help to reinforce peace and stability.
“The project will also deliver a bespoke good relations training programme for up to 200 people, on both sides of the border, with the hope that many of these individuals will go on to become ‘community champions’, delivering positive change in their local areas.”
Bringing communities together
Christine McCarron, a tenant with Clanmil Housing Association, stated: “Having lived in a similar social housing environment, I completely relate to the aims of the Housing Associations Integration Project and I’m delighted to see that the team will be working with residents across Northern Ireland and the border counties. They are working to build a better society and I feel this initiative will have a huge impact on helping to bring communities together. It is important to be able to live and work well within any community”.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Housing Associations Integration Project can contact Richard Mealey, NIFHA (Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations), tel: 028 90897 698 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.haiptogether.org
Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department for Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
Commenting on the news, Ben Collins, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) said “NIFHA welcomes the publication of this consultation on the House Sales Scheme.”
“Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the United Kingdom with a mandatory House Sales Scheme,” he explained. “The Office of National Statistics has indicated that the House Sales Scheme must be removed before reclassification can proceed.”
Outlining the importance of access to private funding sources, Mr Collins added “It is vital that reclassification is reversed so that housing association can access private funding which effectively matches pound for pound the monies that are allocated through grant funding.”
“We are currently in discussions with our members about the consultation and will issue a more detailed response in due course,” Mr Collins concluded.
The overall objectives of the day were to:
- to increase mutual understanding of the roles & responsibilities of the various stakeholders involved in the delivery of appropriate housing solutions for complex needs cases
- to highlight the need for consistency of approach in the preparation and sign-off of Options Appraisals (OA)
- stress the importance of identifying solutions that meet housing need rather than the housing preferences of the clients
- highlight the potential for investigating housing solutions available within existing (NIHE and housing association) social housing stock
- in cases where this is not possible the next consideration should be to utilise one of the generic Wheelchair-Standard house-types in planned new build schemes. Siobhan Porter of Apex spoke about these generic design templates, highlighting that they should offer sufficient flexibility to address the vast majority of complex needs requirements. These design templates can be viewed by clicking on this link.
- small focus group to review the Options Appraisal template, with the aim of producing a standardised document which can be utilised across the sector
- highlight that the DfC has a target in 2018/19 of 7% of new build units being designed to Wheelchair Standard and that this target will increase incrementally, to the point where (from 2020/21 onwards) there will be an annual requirement for at least 10% of all new build units to be designed to Wheelchair Standard.
Please click here to download the presentations given at the seminar.
The remaining provisions of the Credit Unions and Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 also came into force on 6 April 2018. DfE will still retain oversight for society legislation as it continues to be responsible for the policy and legislative framework.
What does this mean for housing associations here?
It is important to remember that this does not mean that housing associations in Northern Ireland are now regulated by the FCA. RHAs continue to be regulated by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, Housing Regulation branch (Department for Communities), HMRC and some by RQIA. Housing associations will only be regulated by FCA if separate permission is needed for a financial services business.
The FCA’s work with housing associations here will primarily involve receiving annual returns, making decisions on rule amendments and deciding whether to register new societies. During a transfer of engagements (“merger”) process some housing associations transfer into a new housing association. This part of the merger process will now involve registering a new society with the FCA. This is a new and important factor to consider when deciding on the best legal structure following merger/amalgamation.
Housing associations here along with their legal and financial advisers will now have to consider the FCA guidance (available on its website) and complete new forms when: –
- applying to register (existing housing associations are recognised by FCA and do not have to register again);
- applying to convert to a society;
- submitting annual returns and accounts;
- updating the registered office address (this is a short form with no fee);
- changing the name. This is also relatively straightforward unless the new name is undesirable or currently in use (this includes using a name which is already a company name) and a resolution also needs to be passed;
- any partial or complete amendment to the rules;
- on transfer of engagements; and
- any other application requiring registration under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts (Northern Ireland) 1969.
Registering or converting to a Society
There is a new 12 page form to be completed and submitted to London which focusses on whether the society is conducting its business for the benefit of the community, for example, relief of poverty or homelessness through the provision of social housing. You must describe how the society’s business will deliver these benefits to the community, declare any intention to work with a specific community, explain your methods for raising funds and what you will do with your surplus/profit.
Importantly the RHA must also describe any close links a founding member or director has or intends to have with a society, company or authority. Close links include any directorship or senior position held by director or founding members of the society in other organisations.
Conversion also requires a special resolution to be passed by the members and confirmation that no proposed director is disqualified. Housing associations in Northern Ireland are also registered charities and must also state its charitable purpose on the form.
There are two different forms for rule amendments as before; partial and complete amendments. In the partial rule amendment form the RHA must state any significant commercial arrangements that it has, or had, with any other organisation that could create, or be perceived as creating, a conflict of interest. The housing association must then explain how it ensures that any such conflict of interest does not prevent the society from acting for the benefit of the community and enclose a sworn statutory declaration.
The fees for rule amendments are now higher with a maximum of £950.00 for not using the model rules.
For the first time housing associations also need to pay an annual compulsory fee which is dependent on the size of the housing association’s assets: –
- Smaller societies (with £50,000 assets and below) must currently pay £65.00 per year;
- Larger societies (with £1m assets and above) must currently pay £480.00. There is a sliding scale of fees.
Housing associations must remember to update its letter head and website e.g. “‘[Society name] is registered by the Financial Conduct Authority”.
The senior management team should update the Board to ensure that each board member is aware of these changes. This is very important as the Board are individually and collectively responsible for ensuring that the society complies with its legal obligations.
If you require any advice or assistance on the FCA regime, the new legislative changes or the legal duties and liabilities of board members please contact Catherine Cooney, Partner in the Corporate, Commercial & Charity Department of Worthingtons Solicitors. Catherine has particular expertise in working with housing association boards and their senior management teams and advises on a range of issues including duties and liabilities of charity trustees, legal obligations of a registered charity, protecting your charity, corporate governance, conflicts of interest and mergers amongst others.
Volunteers from across Northern Ireland attended the event and learnt practical skills* to help engage with older people and encourage residents to connect, socialise, share stories and ultimately have fun and laugh together.
Abbeyfield has a long history of volunteer involvement and currently has 63 active volunteers, aged from 16 to 85. The charity also launched details of its new volunteer recruitment campaign at the event.
Congratulating volunteers for the invaluable role they play, Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive, Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, said “Abbeyfield plays an important role in local society by providing a range of high quality accommodation and services to older people throughout Northern Ireland, from purpose-built apartments, right through to sheltered bungalows and flats, supported sheltered houses and residential care.
“Our vision is ‘making time for older people’ and we firmly believe that older people should be enabled to retain links within the local community. We see our volunteers as crucial in helping to achieve this. Their interactions with residents help to overcome loneliness and isolation and give a better quality of life to older people. They can make a huge difference to an older person’s wellbeing. On behalf of our residents and management I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to all of those wonderful volunteers who offer their time to help others.”
Mrs Gilpin added: “We are also launching our volunteer recruitment drive for 20 more volunteers. if this is something that might interest you please get in touch to find out more about the wide range of volunteering opportunities on offer. We are especially looking for volunteers in Bangor, Donaghadee, Newtownards, Ballycastle and Lurgan.”
Discussing the volunteering opportunities available at Abbeyfield, Sally Campton, Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager, stated “Our volunteers get up to all sorts of things – many roles just require your time, energy and enthusiasm. Some are involved in organising activities – from quizzes, film evenings, and craft mornings to singing, dancing and playing board games. Other volunteers help with gardening, assisting residents to get to the shops or understanding how to use an iPad and surf the web. Some have a befriending role, offering support to a particular individual. Others bring in their dogs for some pet therapy!
“In addition, some volunteers are involved in the administration side of things, others are board members, while other volunteers help with events and activities to promote Abbeyfield in the community. There are so many different ways people can contribute and each and every way is appreciated.”
Laura Kiely, who is a (mature) student, volunteers at Abbeyfield’s house in Greenisland. Laura discussed her experience there: “I found that, as a student with some free time on my hands, I wanted to help others and give something back to my local community. Honestly, volunteering with Abbeyfield is the most rewarding experience I have ever had, and I have volunteered with other organisations as well. I can see myself always volunteering here, no matter what else happens.
“With Abbeyfield it’s totally different to anywhere else. It’s like a wee family and the staff and residents make me feel so welcome. For anyone else thinking about it, it is the most worthwhile and rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Whenever I arrive, it’s the smiles on the residents’ faces as soon as they see me that lets me know I’m making a difference. I know the residents get a lot from me being there, and so do I.”
There are two Abbeyfield societies in Northern Ireland and both are charities. Abbeyfield Belfast Society operates seven supported sheltered houses in South and East Belfast. Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association manages 18 supported, sheltered houses in Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Donaghadee, Downpatrick, Greenisland, Holywood, Lurgan, Merville, Newtownards and Portstewart. In addition, the charity also runs a residential dementia care home in East Belfast and three sheltered schemes in Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Belfast.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering at Abbeyfield please call 028 93363558 or email email@example.com
There’s no shortage of information on the housing market, telling us how prices and sales activity for instance are changing on an annual, quarterly or even monthly basis.
These surveys are important and give us a flavour of how the market, which is a key part of the economy, is performing. But there is a danger that we get too fixated on these numbers and miss a more important trend.
Taking a step back from the fluctuations in price and sales data, more significant are the megatrends impacting on the long-term structure of the market. Chief amongst these is changing demographics and the relative economic fortunes of different generations.
We’ve heard a lot about the ageing population impacting on the public finances and the health sector, but it is also contributing to the changing face of the housing market. In 1972 (when I was born), the number of people aged over 65 was around one-in-10 of the population. Today it’s one-in-six, and in 20 years it will be one-in-four.
Back then, every 100 people of working age (16-64) supported 19 pensioners. In 2015, the ratio was 100 to 24 and in another five years, this will have increased to 30 pensioners for every 100 working-age people. The speed of change in the eight years between 2015 and 2023 was great than in the previous four decades. And this trend will only accelerate, meaning that by 2061, the ratio will be two to one.
The number of people in the first-time-buyer bracket (i.e. aged 25-34) peaked in the late 1990s and is forecast to not get back to anywhere near that level any time in the next 20 years. Similarly, the home-mover market (aged 35-44) peaked quite some time ago, is currently well below that level and is forecast to go on a downward trajectory in the 20 years ahead.
This has wide-ranging implications for housing. For one, it changes the supply and demand dynamics of the market and the mix of housing that is required. The market has always been subdivided into the following categories – first-time buyers, home movers and downsizers. As a result of the demographic changes, the latter category will surge and become the biggest driver of the market. Developers, housing associations and other players in the market will have to respond.
Of equal significance is the economic position of the younger-generation today. When we look at both the first-time buyer segment of the market and the home-mover segment, we see that their economic situation has been deteriorating.
The labour market at a headline level looks like it has been performing very well, with record employment and record-low unemployment. However, real earnings have been stagnating, and we have been seeing the younger generations faring less well than their older counterparts in terms of wages. Job quality and tenure, as well as increasing instances of insecure work (e.g. zero hours contracts) have also been issues.
All of this means has an impact on the type of housing tenure that people can afford.
Home-ownership has traditionally been the housing tenure of choice across all age-groups. In the UK, Governments over the years actively promoted home-ownership through a variety of measures. Most notable of all was Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme, enabling council house tenants to purchase their homes at a discount. This formed part of a wider aim to promote a ‘property-owning democracy’.
Fast forward to today and this model is unrecognisable to the younger generations. Despite being the best educated generation in history, home-ownership for millennials in NI and the UK has collapsed. Millennials are those born between 1982 and 2000 which broadly corresponds with the first-time buyer age-bracket (25-34 years of age). Back in 2005, over two-thirds of individuals in the potential first-time buyer age bracket owned their own homes. By 2017 this had plummeted to 38% (a rise from 35% in 2016). Even those getting on the first-rung of the property ladder required £17k on average as a deposit. Similarly the prime home-mover age-group (35-44yrs) – dubbed the negative equity generation for NI – has fallen from over three-quarters to 59% over the last decade. For over 45s, more than two-thirds are still owner-occupiers with three-quarters of those aged over 65 years of age. As a result, the private rented sector has become the dominant housing tenure for millennials and a growing number of working-age households.
The Resolution Foundation, a think tank that champions the cause of younger generations, highlights a number of stark facts and the growing unaffordability of housing for younger generations. Half of all millennials will rent into their forties while one-third will rent into retirement. For the latter, their biggest monthly outgoing (rent) will never be paid off / disappear. ‘Generation rent’ may be required to work until they literally drop. Other challenges include the growing share of households / children that will be raised in private rented accommodation and exposed to the insecurity of short-term leases. Meanwhile demand for social housing is expected to continue to grow.
Even for those households that manage to get into property ownership, they are less likely to have the means or desire to upsize in later years. Conversely, the surge in the number of individuals aged over 65 years of age is going to lead to a boom in would-be downsizers. Therefore we will see a demographic and economic demand mismatch between upsizers and downsizers.
On the supply side, the key issue is whether there will be sufficient housing of an appropriate nature for this potential downsizing tsunami? The challenges of an ageing population will apply to social housing too. Will we see a boom in pensioner bungalows and retirement villages to house our ageing population? In addition, how will the increasingly complex and costly needs of an ageing population from dementia to mobility issues be accommodated?
In the same way that technology has enabled firms such as Google, Amazon and Uber to disrupt their respective markets, demographic trends and the relative economic fortunes of different generations will disrupt our housing market. To date, too little attention has been given to this changing dynamic. Governments and policymakers will have to proactively respond to these challenges. Rather than solely promoting a ‘property-owning democracy’ we need to see a ‘property-renting democracy’ championed too. Otherwise intergenerational tensions will intensify.
This blog appeared in The Irish News on 19 June 2018.
Co-Ownership, which has helped more than 27,000 people into home ownership since 1978, is investing significantly to speed up the home buying process and to put their customers on an equal footing with other buyers.
The announcement was made at a celebratory conference for industry and government partners last week to mark 40 years since Co-Ownership was founded. It took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast.
As part of the changes, which will come into effect after the summer, Co-Ownership is:
- moving to an online application process, which can be done directly by the consumer or by a mortgage advisor on their behalf.
- changing how homebuyers can apply – meaning that people can apply and get an offer in principle before they find a property (Previously homebuyers had to identify a property and agree their purchase before they could apply to Co-Ownership.)
- introducing a new brand image to the marketplace as part of its plans to increase the number of homebuyers it supports in the years ahead.
- launching a Solicitors’ Portal which enables solicitors to receive their Co-Ownership instructions electronically and guides them through the home buying process.
Mark Graham, CEO of Co-Ownership, explains: “We have taken on board feedback from customers and industry partners and are investing significantly to improve our services for them. We are delighted to announce these positive changes as part of our 40th anniversary celebrations.
“The outcome of the enhancements will be a much faster process for homebuyers, which will put them in a better position when bidding on a property, as they will be pre-approved and should be able to complete a purchase as quickly as any other kind of buyer,” he continues.
“Co-Ownership has been an important part of Northern Ireland’s housing market for 40 years and the changes that we are making will ensure that it continues to be an important part of the market for many years to come,” he adds.
Co-Ownership is regulated and part-funded by the Department for Communities. Addressing the conference, the Department’s Housing Director, Deborah Brown congratulated Co-Ownership on its success over the last 40 years. She said: “With the support of Government, 27,000 people have been supported toward owning their own home through Co-ownership. This is a magnificent achievement. Housing is an essential enabler for such a wide range of economic and social outcomes. The Department looks forward to its continued partnership working with Co-Ownership to help many more households fulfil their aspirations of homeownership.”
Co-Ownership has received funding to deliver 700 homes each year through a four-year Financial Transactions Capital (FTC) loan financed by the Department for Communities for 2015/16 – 2018/19. The organisation delivered 803 homes in 2017/18.
Over its 40-year history, Co-Ownership has routinely adapted to a changing housing market and offers solutions to people struggling to buy a property by themselves.
It offers two key products, Co-Own, the organisation’s flagship product, and Rent to Own, a pilot scheme which was introduced in 2017.