25 October 2004
Social Housing Provision in Northern Ireland
Publication of Report
NORTHERN IRELAND AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT WARNS OF IMPENDING CRISIS IN SOCIAL HOUSING
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today published a report into the provision of social housing in Northern Ireland.
The Committee warns of an impending crisis in social housing if urgent action is not taken to meet the strongly rising demand for social housing.
The Rt Hon Michael Mates MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"The number of people on the waiting list for social housing has increased significantly over recent years. There are almost 27,000 people seeking social housing, nearly half of whom require housing urgently, and the number of homeless households now stands at more than 16,000.
"At the same time the supply of houses to let has fallen dramatically through the success of the house sales policy and the continuing failure to meet targets for building new social houses. This situation must be addressed as a matter of urgency."
Mr Tony Clarke MP, chairman of the sub-committee tasked with the inquiry, paid tribute to the work on housing of the former Committee for Social Development of the Northern Ireland Assembly and said that the aim of the sub committee had been to follow this up. He acknowledged the dedication and commitment of those working in the housing sector but warned that much more remains to be done. He said:
"Our greatest concern is that policies on many housing issues such as the house sales scheme, the co-ownership scheme, and the private rented sector have been developed in isolation with insufficient assessment of their overall impact on the general provision of housing in Northern Ireland.
"In addition, responsibility for housing issues ranges across at least four departments making co-ordination within government difficult. What is needed is a much more focussed and co-ordinated government delivery system for social housing.
"We believe there needs to be a strong and inclusive regional housing strategy setting out an overall vision for social housing and ensuring that the efforts of all relevant departments and agencies are maximised."
Mr Clarke continued:
"Although there is a general perception that the overall quality of housing in Northern Ireland is good, this masks high levels of unfitness in the private sector and high levels of fuel poverty. When the Decent Homes Standard was introduced in 2000 it was not extended to Northern Ireland. We call on the government to set a challenging quality standard for housing without delay."
1.In January 2004 the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee set up a sub-committee mainly to undertake inquiries into matters falling previously within the remit of the Northern Ireland Assembly prior to its suspension. The sub-committee is chaired by Mr Tony Clarke, MP, and all members of the existing Northern Ireland Affairs Committee are members.
2.This Report sets out the results of the sub-committee's inquiry into the effectiveness of current housing provision in Northern Ireland with particular emphasis on social housing. The inquiry examined:
the rising demand for social housing;
the continuing decline in the supply of social housing; and
the quality of housing stock.