He made the remarks while welcoming the publication this week of the latest Homelessness Monitor for Northern Ireland. The report identifies the “supply of social rented housing as one of the main pressure points in the Northern Irish housing system”.
Click on the photo to read the Key Points, Executive Summary or Full Report.
“Social housing waiting lists are at an all-time high here with over 26,000 people living in housing stress. If welfare reform mitigations aren’t extended beyond the March deadline, thousands more people could be added to the lists.
“We welcome cross party support for extension, the inclusion of this goal in New Decade, New Approach, and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey’s commitment to see this done. But we once again stress the need for this to be done in the next few weeks, before it is too late.”
Members of the Cliff Edge NI Coalition with Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey. NIFHA is a member of the Coalition Working Group.
Related content: Watch video of Minister Hargey pledging to extend mitigations before the deadline.
Mr Thompson continued: “As a sector, housing associations provide 53,000 homes. The funding model used allows associations to build twice as many homes as the current level of grant funding provides.
“Housing associations deliver around 1,800 quality new social homes per year and we recognise that this needs to be increased to meet current demands. We want to do much more but there are a number of barriers – in addition to funding – to the development of social housing.
“NIFHA and our members will continue to work with our partners across the sector to address these challenges.
“The restoration of the Stormont Executive affords the sector a fresh opportunity to engage with the Communities Minister in order to play our part in providing much needed new homes.
“The introduction of a new law to ensure that housing associations aren’t reclassified as public bodies is another urgent issue that needs to be addressed”, Mr Thompson stated.
“If the law is not enacted before the March deadline, the number of social and affordable homes that can be built will fall dramatically. That would add to the waiting lists and also result in a transfer of around £1 bn of sector borrowings to the Exchequer, with knock-on effects on the Northern Ireland Executive’s budgets.
“NIFHA again calls on the Northern Ireland Executive to address these critically important issues, and ensure that people who are already struggling aren’t worse off at the end of March,” he concluded.