The draft Programme for Government 2016-21 (published in October 2016) included two indicators on housing. One of these relates to housing supply and seeks to narrow the “gap between the number of houses we need and the number of houses we have.”
There are, however, a number of significant issues and challenges attached to developing new interventions to increase housing supply in Northern Ireland, many of which relate to our lack of a coherent and agreed evidence base on housing need, including how many additional houses are required, where they are most needed and the necessary tenure mix. Consequently, DfC’s Housing Policy and Performance Division agreed that a key action within its work programme to achieve its Programme for Government housing targets was to take forward a research project to gain a greater understanding of the housing supply and demand landscape in Northern Ireland.
The first phase of this research project has taken the form of a Housing Market Symposium comprised of a small number of experts in research areas pertinent to examining housing supply and demand.
The Symposium was specifically tasked with:
- Assessing what research evidence and other statistical data is currently available in relation to housing supply and demand; and
- Identifying a programme of future research work to address any gaps in the current evidence.
Membership and Structure
The Symposium was independently chaired by Professor Joe Frey (Research Associate, Ulster University), and its membership comprised of a small number of internal and external experts with knowledge and experience in the field of research and statistics, and in particular in issues pertinent to the housing market.
The key objectives for the Housing Market Symposium were as follows:
- To undertake a data audit as part of identifying the most robust research and evidence available on current and future housing need. This will include an examination of long run demographic impacts as well as micro and macroeconomic factors, including specific issues around affordability and construction costs.
- To provide a preliminary assessment of what this evidence tells us about the nature and extent of the housing supply problem in NI. It is suggested that this assessment should cover a broad range of issues, including planning approvals, local development plans and land availability. It should also aim to help us understand the scale of housing market recovery since the housing market crash and how future shocks, such as, Brexit might impact on this.
- To identify the gaps in evidence on issues key to housing supply and demand, and present some initial proposals on how these evidence gaps might be addressed. In doing so, the Housing Market Symposium will aim to isolate key research proposals and prioritise these according to their importance and interdependency.
- To produce a summary report with suggested actions for the way forward.
The inaugural meeting of the Housing Market Symposium took place on Thursday 16 March 2017 and it met on a further three occasions during 2017.
An engagement event was also held on 16 November 2017 at which the final draft of the Symposium’s report was presented to a wider audience, including representatives from across central and local government, statutory partners, housing associations and other key interests in the housing sector. The main purpose of this event was to obtain stakeholders’ feedback, particularly in relation to the prioritisation of the seven recommended research studies proposed by the Symposium.
The final report on the Symposium’s findings was presented to the Department in January 2018. The report builds upon previous work, including the findings of the Housing Supply Forum Report, and details the Symposium’s recommendations for seven research studies covering a range of issues including for example, establishing a comprehensive and consistent profile of Northern Ireland’s housing stock and examining how the local housing market might respond to demographic changes such as NI’s ageing population.
In response to the Symposium’s recommendations, the Department for Communities will develop an action plan which will set out the key steps and, subject to budget requirements, proposed timescales for undertaking each of the seven proposed research studies, and will work with relevant delivery partners in taking this work forward.
Contact Housing Supply Unit
If you would like more information about the Housing Market Symposium or the work to progress its recommendations, please contact Housing Supply Unit at InfoHA@communities-ni.gov.uk