Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

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Key priorities for housing policy in Northern Ireland

May 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference is focusing on 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 
  • options for reform of the NI Housing Executive - including the best model which allows its landlord section to borrow and invest in its properties
  • increasing housing supply - and addressing barriers
  • first time buyers - improving the options available to them
  • tackling homelessness and addressing rough sleeping

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 - options for reform, 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

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 Housing Executive Landlord so that it can borrow, invest in its properties and build again
    • considerations for reclassifying its landlord section as a mutual, but with the Communities Minister having indicated that the preferred option is a model where the Housing Executive is allowed to borrow and invest
    • a future consultation on the Housing Executive’s House Sales Scheme, and forthcoming reform of the social housing allocations system
  • anticipated 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
  • the recently announced budget from the Department of Finance - which includes £9m towards tackling homelessness and £162.5m for new social housing in Northern Ireland

Key areas for discussion:


Reforming the NI Housing Executive:


  • policy proposals - the impact and implementation of allowing the organisation to invest and build homes again, and giving its landlord arm borrowing powers to improve existing homes
  • improving the NIHE existing housing stock - with discussion on:
    • borrowing powers - is this approach sufficient to allow the Executive both to sufficiently improve its existing homes over the short and medium term, and ensure current rents remain low
    • repair or replace - discussion on whether some homes should be replaced if they are deemed beyond economic repair and do not meet modern standards
  • governance structure - discussing the future framework for the Housing Executive as it is reformed:
    • what can be learnt from examples of large landlords transferring their housing stock to a mutual organisation in Great Britain
    • whether reclassification as a mutual should be considered as originally indicated by the Communities Minister last December
    • 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
  • tenants - priorities for their protection and for 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
    • how the Housing Executive’s new model 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, with discussion on:


  • planning and finance - finding suitable sites, access to finance, expediting applications, and addressing concerns over shortage of skilled staff in planning departments
  • skills development - looking at priorities for support and investment, and the future of initiatives such as housebuilding apprenticeships
  • infrastructure - with discussion expected on roads and public transport links, broadband, and provision for water and wastewater

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:


  • impact of recent policy changes - whether the changes to the Housing Executive, including introducing the right of the Executive to borrow and build new homes, will be effective
  • housing waiting lists - how they can be reduced throughout Northern Ireland, and looking at options for the use of empty properties

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Communities, NI; the Department for Infrastructure, NI; the Department for the Economy, NI; the Department of Health, NI; the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage (ROI); and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Also due to attend are representatives from Apex Housing Association; Barclays; Belfast City Council; Campbell Tickell; Chartered Institute of Housing; Connswater Homes; Derry City and Strabane District Council; Extern; Galway City Council; Inner City Helping Homeless; KPMG; Northern Ireland Civil Service; Northern Ireland Electricity Networks; Northern Ireland Housing Executive; Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance; RPS Group; South Ulster Housing Association; Spring Social Prescribing; Strategic Investment Board; Supporting Communities and Urban Property Solutions.


A press pass has been reserved by a representative from VIEWdigital.


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



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles