Housing Implementation Plan “will now be submitted for Executive Committee approval..”

The BBC reports the statement in the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Social Development minister, the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie, outlining a new housing strategy. The bullet points.

The Minister outlined plans to:
Build more homes- at least 5,250 in the next 3 years;
Make the existing co-ownership scheme more attractive for first time buyers including the immediate abolition of house value limits;
Bring forward proposals to establish a not for profit Mortgage Rescue Scheme;
Allow existing social housing tenants the chance to buy a stake in their homes;
Bring empty homes back into use through the development of an Empty Homes Strategy;
Together with the Minister of the Environment, introduce a Developers Contribution requiring future developments to include a proportion of homes for social and affordable housing; and
A new code for sustainable housing and a new procurement strategy that will increase the energy efficiency of new social houses whilst driving costs down.

Other points of interest

The Minister also outlined exciting new plans for the former Grosvenor Barracks Military Base in Enniskillen. “My Department will undertake a £40million regeneration project on the site of the former Military Base there. We will build nearly 350 mixed tenure homes that will solve the social housing crisis in Enniskillen for the next 5 years. As part of this development we will deliver the first Eco-village in the North, introducing a new ethos in the design process, setting new standards of construction and bringing benefits to the environment and residents alike.”

The notes to the statement point out that the Implementation Plan for the strategy, which intends to “take forward 74 of the 80 recommendations” from the Semple Report will now go to the Executive for approval.

Those notes

Notes to Editors:

There are currently over 38,000 people on the waiting list here for social housing. Over 20,000 of them are assessed as being in ‘Housing Stress’ and over 9,000 are officially homeless.

Sir John Semple published a Review into Affordable Housing in Spring 2007. It included 80 recommendations across a wide range of Government Departments.

The Minister has prepared an Implementation Plan in response to the Semple Report that will now be submitted for Executive Committee approval. This Implementation Plan includes details of when, how and what Department will take forward 74 of the 80 recommendations that have been assessed a suitable.

The Minister received a report from Professor Alastair Adair, who chaired a panel of 17 Housing Experts to report on Semple in light of the changing state of the housing market here.

The Minister also commissioned Baroness Margaret Ford, Formerly Chair of English Partnerships, to look at a number of funding and planning issues in the delivery of social housing in Northern Ireland.

The proposals include abolishing the capital value limits that apply to the existing co-ownership scheme and making it easier for co-ownership applicants to staircase out at lower rates from April this year. From April next year the Minister wants to allow some applicants to enter the scheme with as little as a 25% stake, but new eligibility criteria need to be established.

The Minister also agreed to explore a Not for Profit Mortgage Rescue scheme to help those who are in danger of being repossessed.

The existing house sales scheme will be extended from November 2009 to allow existing social tenants the chance to buy a stake in their home when they can not afford to buy it all in one swoop.

From 1 April a new Code for Sustainable Homes will be applied to all new social houses to make them more energy efficient and environmentally friendly both in construction and occupation. This new code will mean a house built after April 2008 will be 25% more energy efficient than one built juts two years ago.

A new Procurement Strategy will also be published in April 2008 to encourage Housing Associations to form procurement Groups and realise up to 10% savings by increasing their bargaining powers and striking better deals to deliver new social homes. Housing Associations will also be encouraged to make even greater use of private finance and in response to the report from Baroness Ford, the Minister has agreed to reduce grant rates by 10% from April this year. The savings that will be realised through the new procurement strategy and the greater use of private finance will allow more homes to be built from the existing resources.