In addition to the requirement for additional funding to build more homes, a number of issues inhibit further development. These include problems with access to land and delays in planning. We have highlighted below a package of measures which would help to address this.
Rural Housing’s energy efficient social homes at Lismore Park, Sion Mills are the first to incorporate elements of the association’s groundbreaking new Design Guide for Rural Homes.
Development of new build homes in the sector creates an economic multiplier effect of circa £1bn for the wider economy across Northern Ireland.
Each council’s local development plan (LDP) should have an element of affordable housing. This needs to be based on a definition of affordable housing that includes social and intermediate housing.
It is difficult to be prescriptive as to the split of social and intermediate housing in all cases. The actual proportion of social or intermediate housing required in relation to a specific site must be
based on the level of need as identified by the NIHE (Northern Ireland Housing Executive) and will depend on factors such as site viability and other related issues. These are matters that are commonly addressed in planning agreements in the rest of the UK.
The following measures are urgently needed to help housing associations deliver more quality, affordable, homes and inclusive communities:
- central government support in the form of a policy to support mixed tenure housing
- an updated and wider definition of affordable housing
- a multi-year development programme rather than the current annualised one
- reversal of the ONS reclassification by passing new legislation before the March deadline, and
- reinstatement of the Z Clause derogation which enabled housing associations to effectively manage claims for unforeseen ground conditions with no use of public funding, on the same basis as in Britain.
Two of the 106 new social homes provided by Choice Housing at Killaire Wood in Bangor. The scheme also features a children’s play park.
The disposal of surplus public sector land can play a key role in helping to deliver much needed new homes. NIFHA is calling for:
- all surplus public sector land (including land belonging to all local councils) to be made part of the asset disposal process
- a policy prioritising surplus public sector land for housing where there is identified need, and
- targets for release of surplus land for housing for each government
A range of major challenges exist in relation to water provision and use. These include capacity to meet fundamental water supply needs, provision of wastewater treatment and drainage services, and safeguarding water’s indirect benefits in health, wellbeing and biodiversity. Safe and readily available water is important for public health, access to clean water is a fundamental human right. It is therefore an absolute necessity that the NI Water infrastructure can ensure water is available for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes.
Graphic courtesy of NI Water.
- Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, is required for economic growth.
- New connections for new developments such as houses, offices, factories, hotels, hospitals or schools are being curtailed because 99 Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) at locations around Northern Ireland are almost at capacity with a further 33 predicted to reaching capacity by 2027. Significant investment is urgently required to address this.
- A change to the Government owned funding model (which currently does not allow NI Water to borrow funds) is needed urgently. NI Water requires the Departments for Infrastructure and Finance to make changes to NI Water’s funding model so that it can prepare for future decisions on additional spending.Economic regeneration plans for Belfast and the North West are not going to happen without investment into the NI Water infrastructure.Sewerage network and treatment plants are operating at or beyond design capacity across many parts of Northern Ireland. This is now limiting the opportunity for new connections, causing constraints and further increasing the already high numbers of housing stress.Supporting investment into a sustainable funding model will ensure water security which will allow for the growth planned for Belfast, the North West and where needed elsewhere throughout Northern Ireland.
Featured photo: Clanmil Housing’s award-winning development at Albert Street in North Belfast.