What is a housing association?

A housing association is a society, body of trustees or company that provides rented accommodation and specialises in accommodation for special needs groups. They are the main developers of new social housing for rent in Northern Ireland.
The Department is the regulator of registered housing associations.


A housing association is a society, body of trustees or company:

  • established for the purpose of providing, constructing, improving or managing, facilitating and encouraging the construction or improvement of housing accommodation
  • it does not trade for profit and its constitution and rules prohibit the issue of capital with interest or dividend exceeding rates prescribed by the Department of Finance and Personnel, with or without differentiation between share and loan capital

Housing associations contact details

The Housing associations contact list is available on the nidirect site.

Housing associations complaints procedure

If you are unhappy about the way you have been treated by a registered housing association you may complain to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

Contact information

Northern Ireland Ombudsman
33 Wellington Place

Telephone: 028 9023 3821
Fax: 028 9023 4912

The Ombudsman

Freephone: 0800 3434 24
email: ombudsman@ni-ombudsman.org.uk
Website: www.ni-ombudsman.org.uk 

Co-ownership Association

Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association was established to help meet housing need through the promotion and development of equity sharing in the private housing sector achieved through the Co-Ownership Scheme.

Mission statement

"To provide opportunities through equity sharing to those outside the margins of conventional home ownership".

The Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association Limited (NICHA) is registered as a housing association under the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and also as a friendly society under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts (Northern Ireland) 1969 and 1976.

NICHA was established to help meet housing need through the promotion and development of equity sharing in the private housing sector achieved through the Co-Ownership Scheme. NICHA is regulated and partly funded by the Department for Social Development.

The scheme helps people to own their own homes through equity "sharing", which means part-buying and part-renting the property of their choice. If a person would not normally be able to buy the home they need on a full mortgage, the Co-Ownership scheme enables them to buy as much as they can afford initially, with the option of buying the rest from NICHA at any time.

Co-Ownership rents are worked out on the value of the property and the size of the share the participant takes. The larger the share the lower the rent. To start with the participant buys at least 50 per cent of the value of the property, through a mortgage in the usual way and pays a rent to NICHA on the other part of the property. If they can afford it the participant can buy 62.5 per cent or at most 75 per cent of the property at the start. How and when they increase their share after that is up to them - in slices of 5 per cent, all at once, or not at all.

Any kind of property may be considered for Co-Owership anywhere in Northern Ireland.  There are limits on the value of properties which are set by the Department and reviewed twice a year.  

Further Information

You should use the above information as a guide. All queries should be made to Co-Ownership during office hours on Freephone number 0800 333 644 or at their office:  

Murray House,
Murray Street,

Visit the Co-Ownership Association website

Performance indicators for registered housing associations in Northern Ireland

The Department collects information on social housing stock owned by registered housing associations. Data gathered is used to produce specific Performance Indicators.

If performance indicators from previous years are needed please email: hagovernance@communities-ni.gov.uk

EC procurement requirements

Housing associations are bodies governed by public law for the purposes of EC procurement; various EC public procurement directives exist.

EC procurement

Registered social landlords, which includes housing associations, are bodies governed by public law for the purposes of EC procurement. Therefore registered housing associations must comply with the requirements of the various EC public procurement directives.  Housing associations, as a matter of urgency, should review their current and future procurement activities to ensure compliance with the supplies, services and works directives where applicable.

The brief guidance on EC procurement requirements for works and services included in the Housing Association Guide (Ref: 4.3.5 and Ref: 4.3.6) is no longer relevant and has been replaced by Annex C to Appendix 2 of Part 4 (Procurement).

This guidance is still in draft form and may be subject to alteration. The Department intends to discuss with NIFHA and associations the implications of this decision, and the level of guidance necessary for Associations to comply with the requirements. New guidance will be included as part of the revision of the guide.

Read more about Registered housing associations EC procurement

Governance and inspection

Governance and Inspection branch deal with the regulatory framework for registered housing associations in Northern Ireland along with the publication of the inspections performed within housing associations.

Regulatory framework (The Regulatory Framework 2006 has been superseded by the Regulatory Framework for Social Housing Providers 2017 and subsequent Advice Notes)

Inspection programme and reports

The Housing Association Inspection Programme


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