Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Key priorities for housing policy in Northern Ireland

Morning, Tuesday, 20th April 2021


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss the priorities and next steps for housing policy in Northern Ireland.


Areas for discussion include:

  • the outlook for the NI housing market in the wake of the pandemic 
  • reform of the NI Housing Executive - the implications of proposals for it to split, with its landlord arm becoming a mutual, and allowing it to build houses again  
  • addressing barriers to increasing housing supply
  • improving options for first time buyers
  • tackling homelessness and addressing rough sleeping

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Reforms to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive - from the Department for Communities, with a Ministerial statement last year which outlined:
    • changes to the landlord part of the Housing Executive so that it can borrow, invest in its properties and build again
    • a forthcoming consultation on the Housing Executive’s House Sales Scheme, and forthcoming reform of the social housing allocations system
  • forthcoming legislation intended to improve the safety, security and quality of the private rented sector:
    • proposed reform is expected to include extending the notice to quit period, ensuring rent is fair, and increasing the role for councils in registration and enforcement
  • the expected development of a Housing Supply Strategy for Northern Ireland
  • the announcement of £1.75bn in capital funding in the draft NI budget for social housebuilding

Key areas for discussion:

Reforming the NI Housing Executive:

  • impact and implementation of policy proposals which allow the organisation to become a mutual and build homes again, and give its landlord arm borrowing powers to improve existing homes
  • improving the Housing Executive’s existing housing stock, discussing:
    • whether giving the Housing Executive borrowing powers is sufficient to allow it to improve its existing homes over the short and medium term to the required standard, whilst ensuring the rents of current tenants remain low
    • if some homes should be replaced rather than repaired as they are deemed beyond economic repair and do not meet modern standards
  • the future shape of the Housing Executive’s governance structure as it becomes a mutual:
    • what can be learnt from examples of large landlords transferring their housing stock to a mutual organisation in Great Britain
    • how to ensure a smooth transition from the current model
    • the implications for the wider housing sector in Northern Ireland, as well as other landlords
  • protecting tenants and giving them a greater say:
    • how funds for repairs and development can be raised whilst ensuring that existing tenants do not receive future rent increases
    • the impact of the new mutual structure will promote tenants involvement in the delivery of the housing service
  • the future of the remainder of the Housing Executive - which administers benefits, provides accommodation for the homeless and publishes housing investment plans for councils

Addressing barriers to housing supply - and ensuring housing is built in the areas of greatest need such as north and west Belfast and Derry/Londonderry:

  • overcoming suggested barriers to house building in Northern Ireland, such as finding suitable sites, access to finance and concerns surrounding the planning system such as a shortage of skilled staff in planning departments
  • the ways in which planning applications can be speeded up, how to encourage greater investment in skills needed by the sector through, for example, housebuilding apprenticeships
  • how to increase infrastructure investment and tackle barriers to house building, such as water and wastewater infrastructure

Support for first time buyers in Northern Ireland - and the future of the Co-Ownership scheme following the recent announcement of a further £13m in funding


Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping:

  • whether the changes to the Housing Executive including introducing the right of the Executive to borrow and build new homes will be effective in tackling homelessness
  • the ways in which housing waiting lists throughout Northern Ireland can be tackled and empty properties can be used

The agenda:

  • The outlook for the NI housing market in the wake of COVID-19, the impact of stamp duty holidays, and the way forward for meeting current demand and consumer needs
  • Reforming the Northern Ireland Housing Executive - implications for the wider sector, ensuring a smooth transition, and priorities for increasing the supply of social housing
  • Key priorities for the Housing Executive in the wake of reform
  • Overcoming barriers to increasing housing supply, improving options for first time buyers, and tackling homelessness and rough sleeping
  • Housing in Northern Ireland - next steps for policy

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including MLAs, senior executive officials and regulators, as well as from representatives of arms-length and delivery bodies, local authorities and community groups, businesses involved in housing and wider infrastructure delivery and finance as well as their partners and advisors, transport and telecoms providers, charities and advocacy groups including those involved in environmental issues, housing association representatives, lawyers and academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Keynote Speakers

Grainia Long

Chief Executive Designate, Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Justin Cartwright

National Director, Northern Ireland, Chartered Institute of Housing

Paul Price

Deputy Director of Housing, Department for Communities

Chair

Karen Mullan MLA

Member, Committee for Communities

Speakers

Dr Stewart Smyth

Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Member, The Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management, University of Birmingham and Author, 21st Century Housing for Northern Ireland

Colm McDaid

Chief Executive, Supporting Communities

John McLean

Chief Executive, Radius Housing

Tony McQuillan

Director, Shelter NI