Housing Partnership UK takes study tour of Belfast
Our most recent meeting was held in Belfast during November. We were hosted by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and were joined in our discussions with colleagues from the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations and some of their members.
The NIHE was formed in 1971 and took over responsibility for 150,000 former local authority homes. They also have wide ranging funding and benefit responsibilities. However, funding is reducing as is the stock – now down to 87,000 following RTB. This stock is in need of £2.5 billion investment and there is no current new build.
Housing associations are providing some new build on a relatively small scale. There are relatively few associations in Northern Ireland and there is a trend towards merger. They are keen to explore stock transfer from the NIHE who in turn would prefer the status quo with new borrowing powers or the creation of a small number of new transfer associations. This is all the subject of a major review of social housing in Northern Ireland which has been running for some time with an uncertain end date.
Demand in the north of the city is reducing and increasing in the south but due to the patch work nature of religious communities in the province solutions are complex. Many sites are sterile because of their location – often near peace walls – 80 plus of which the NIHE have to maintain as well as various paramilitary murals. Segregation and political inertia makes a difficult environment even more difficult. The day we arrived brought news of the reinstatement of Stormont together with compromises on welfare reform, particularly ”bedroom tax”. Beware Brits baring gifts! Many thanks to out hosts. We hope to keep in touch and help where we can