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Northern Ireland’s largest landlord split

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive – the largest landlord in the region with approximately 90,000 homes – is to be broken up in a shake-up of the country’s social housing landscape.

The future of the body’s 90,000-home stock is at present uncertain, with an Assembly spokesperson telling CN it is too early to say where it will be transferred to.

Industry figures have mooted that housing associations are the likely recipient of the landlord functions.

The NIHE’s landlord functions are to be turned over to the private sector, focusing on tenant service and private funding access.

In a written statement, social development minister Nelson McCausland today said that “the current model and structures no longer allow optimal delivery of either strategic housing or landlord services.”

The Department for Social Development, supported by a Regional Housing Body, will deliver the non-landlord functions of the NIHE: Regional housing services, programmes and operational strategies.

The moves will also enhance the Department’s regulation and inspection functions.

An Independent Social Housing Rent Panel will also be set up to agree annual rent levels.

“I commissioned PricewaterhouseCooper to undertake a further series of meetings with stakeholders and the general consensus from participants was that the “Do nothing” option was not a realistic solution”, the minister said.

“Whilst the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has had a long history of delivering social housing and has enjoyed the widespread support of Northern Ireland society, the current model is simply not sustainable, does not make best use of public resources nor does it allow sufficient flexibility and focus on supporting tenants and meeting their needs now and in the future.

The Housing Council, which advised politicians on strategic housing matters, will also be dissolved in the shake-up.

The minister continued: “I acknowledge there is much detailed work to be done in taking these proposals forward.  We can now move onto detailed consideration, design and engagement on how we can realise this vision.

“A change of this significance requires a detailed programme of projects which will deliver the necessary reform which will be supported by appropriate structures to involve all key stakeholders. The first phase of the programme will focus on the detailed design of each of the key strands of the proposed delivery model.   

“Each project strand within the programme will prepare, design and develop operational solutions to support the proposed delivery model and each of these will be subject to consultation.  The time-critical issues for the first phase will be the urgent consideration and evaluation of legislative changes which will be required to support the new delivery model.”

The new structures are expected to be delivered by March 2015.

Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Cameron Watt said the announcement was “good news for tenants, taxpayers and people in housing need in Northern Ireland.

“The Northern Ireland Housing Executive deserves great credit for its achievements over the last forty years. It has made huge progress in providing good homes, regenerating communities and ending discrimination in social housing.

“But times change and new structures are needed to guarantee high quality social housing in future, not least to secure private investment to refurbish the Executive’s 90,000 homes and to build new social homes.

“There is a shortfall in funding of over £1 Billion that has to be filled to bring existing Housing Executive homes up to a good standard.”

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