We have a range of key asks for the NI Executive and NI Assembly, which will provide a better framework for social and affordable housing:
A Standalone Housing Outcome
A Standalone Housing outcome in the Programme for Government is needed, as set out in the New Decade New Approach document: “Every household has access to a good quality, affordable and sustainable home that is appropriate for its needs.” Housing is a cross-cutting issue and can only be delivered effectively by adopting a joined-up Government approach. This should include the release of surplus public sector land in areas of high need and multiyear budgets for the development of social and affordable housing.
Cut Housing Waiting List
By building more homes we can address the growing demand for social and affordable homes. Investment in social housing has a multiplier impact of more than £1bn each year for NI. To ensure this positive impact continues, increased infrastructure investment in water and wastewater services, public transport, electricity grid connections and broadband is essential to enable the development of new homes throughout Northern Ireland. We also need a more efficient planning system to help deliver new social and affordable homes faster. New housing should incorporate innovative thinking about design, materials, smaller household sizes and an ageing population.
Ensuring Sustainable Communities
Housing associations need flexibility to accommodate people in suitable homes, which will allow the creation of balanced communities. Social homes provide a huge range of benefits to families, communities, and businesses across NI. A reform of intimidation points is urgently required to facilitate this. We also all need to work to remove the negativity that too often is associated with social housing and deliver more mixed tenure and shared neighbourhoods to ensure thriving, balanced communities.
Ensuring that people can live at home with dignity
Demand on housing support services is increasing and there is a need to increase the development of new sheltered and supported accommodation, as well as adequately funding existing support services. Supporting People helps the vulnerable, elderly and people with complex needs to live as independently as possible, while reducing pressure in health and social care. The link between housing and health is clear but Supporting People needs urgent increases in funding to build back on inflationary losses over the past 15 years, to provide parity with health and to meet future demand.
Support housing associations to lead on decarbonisation
Housing Associations will need assistance to allow the sector to move towards net zero energy homes, whilst managing affordability for tenants. By investing in housing associations to lead the way on decarbonisation, it will support job creation and regeneration across the region. The Northern Ireland share of the proposed £3.8bn Westminster Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund should be ring fenced to help deliver on the transition of the sector to a low carbon future. Housing associations want to build to high energy efficiency standards with provision for remote working and learning, and green space. We call for a Social Housing Budget to support a minimum EPC A Rating for all new social homes.
More investment for Rural Communities
Sufficient investment in rural homes will maintain rural communities. Our rural areas and communities make an important contribution to the social and economic life of the region. It is important that government, rural communities and the voluntary & community sector continue to work together to help sustain rural areas, support balanced regional growth and help tackle rural disadvantage. The increase in remote and hybrid working as a result of the pandemic, provides a unique opportunity to sustain our rural communities, if we can ensure the right infrastructure is in place.
More affordable housing
Housing Associations will need to be provided with the necessary financial support in the new mandate to deliver a greater range of affordable housing options. This will be essential to taking pressure off social housing waiting lists and will help create balanced communities where tenure is ‘blind’. Affordable options include shared ownership schemes, such as those provided by Co-Ownership and FairShare Partners.