Definition of affordable housing

The current definition of affordable housing, which is provided by the Department for Communities is contained in Planning policy, specifically the Strategic Planning Policy Statement – SPPS.

The definition

The definition of affordable housing in NI was revised in April 2021 following a consultation exercise launched in June 2019 by the Department for Communities. Details relating to the consultation exercise are available.

As a result the following revised definition of affordable housing has been adopted. For the purposes of planning and the Department for Infrastructure’s Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS), the new definition applies:

“Affordable housing is:

a) Social rented housing;   or
b) Intermediate housing for sale; or
c) Intermediate housing for rent

that is provided outside of the general market, for those whose needs are not met by the market. Affordable housing which is funded by Government must remain affordable or alternatively there must be provision for the public subsidy to be repaid or recycled in the provision of new affordable housing”

Explanatory note

Affordable housing is available to households who otherwise could not house themselves, for example, because they would struggle to afford the cost of housing in the open market, or they need a specific type of house which is not commonly available. It is provided outside the general market i.e. it is not a home bought privately or a home rented from a private landlord. It is therefore not available to households who can meet their own housing needs without Government support.

Affordable homes are delivered via specially designed products, such as those detailed below, which are operated according to specific criteria to ensure that, where government funding is provided, it is targeted based on objective need. The criteria are specific to each product. For instance, the allocation of social rented housing is governed by the Housing Selection Scheme.

Government funded affordable housing should remain affordable for future eligible households. However, where this is not possible, arrangements will be put in place for government funding to be repaid or recycled to support the provision of further affordable housing for future households.

Social rented housing

Social rented housing is housing provided at an affordable rent by a Registered Housing Association; that is, one which is registered and regulated by the Department for Communities as a social housing provider. Social rented accommodation should be available to households in housing need and is offered in accordance with the Common Selection Scheme, administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which prioritises households who are living in unsuitable or insecure accommodation.

Intermediate housing

Shared ownership

Shared ownership housing is provided through a Registered Housing Association (e.g. the Co Ownership Housing Association) and helps households who can afford a small mortgage, but that are not able to afford to buy a property outright. The property is split between part ownership by the householder and part social renting from the Registered Housing Association. The proportion of property ownership and renting can vary depending on householder circumstances and preferences.

Intermediate rent

The Department has developed a new Intermediate Rent policy, which sets the framework for the development of more high quality, long-term, affordable rented housing with support services.   Work continues to deliver a funding package which can support the practical delivery of a supply of new Intermediate Rent homes.

If you require any of the documents relating to this consultation in a different format please forward a written request to;

Department for Communities
Housing Division
Housing Supply Team
Causeway Exchange
1-7 Bedford Street
County Antrim

 Or by email to

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