Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
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Key priorities for housing policy in Northern Ireland

May 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***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