Housing need is identified and analysed by the NIHE. It is split between General Needs and Supported Housing schemes.


NIHE is the strategic Regional Housing Authority for Northern Ireland and is responsible for the identification and analysis of housing need.  The NIHE’s assessment is incorporated into the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP).  Schemes are identified by client need group. In terms of identifying housing need the split is broadly between General Needs and Supported Housing schemes.

For more information on Need Group Categories

General Needs Schemes - Housing Need Assessment

NIHE (AP) Support in Principle for Housing Need

NIHE (AP) may issue letters in respect of housing need for scheme proposals giving ‘Support in Principle’ only. This would normally arise where insufficient or incomplete information is provided by the Association with the request for support. [Note. NIHE (AP) ‘support in principle’ is not sufficient for Scheme Approval purposes].

Formal NIHE (AP) Support for Housing Need

For all General Needs housing for rent schemes, before NIHE (DPG) will consider an application for Project Approval the Association must obtain written confirmation of the need, and the proposed timetable for meeting that need, from the appropriate NIHE Area Planner (AP).  [Note: The only exceptions to this requirement are in some cases of Existing Satisfactory Purchases (ESPs) or properties acquired for rehabilitation for general needs use, where the Association’s acquisitions form part of a Strategic Plan agreed by NIHE and approved by DSD]. Associations are reminded that support for the scheme from the NIHE (AP) does not presuppose Scheme Approval by NIHE (DPG). Time taken at site registration stage by Associations will avoid the need for NIHE (DPG)/ (AP) to request further information.  In addition it will minimise the need for potentially costly changes in scheme content at a later stage, which would require fresh consultation with the NIHE (DPG)/ (AP).

Minimum Scheme Proposal Requirements

It is crucial at this early stage that the Association itself takes a clear view of the scheme which it would hope to promote. The detailed scheme type and mix must be conveyed to NIHE (DPG) as part of the site registration process with as much background information as possible.  Association must make reference to appropriate technical guidance in formulating the scheme unit numbers and housing mix. The minimum information requirements are covered by the questions on the S1 form which must be fully completed and supported by the required documentation.

Useful Information

Associations must give due consideration to such fundamental design issues at this stage in the scheme development.

The NIHE (AP) will then decide, considering all the relevant factors whether it can support the need for the proposal and proposed development timetable and will write to the Association accordingly.  A copy of the Association’s letter to the NIHE (AP) must be retained on the Association’s file and the positive reply giving full support must accompany the application for Project Approval to NIHE (DPG). The scheme type and housing mix must correlate on both letters.

It is the responsibility of NIHE (DPG)/ (AP) to decide whether there is a need for the proposal within the proposed development timetable.  If a scheme is not supported by the NIHE (AP), it will not be accepted for inclusion in the SHDP

Validity period for Housing Support confirmation

Letters of formal support for housing need from the NIHE (AP) are only valid for 12 months up to the date of receipt of the application for Scheme Approval. A re-affirmation of housing need support will be required if the scheme submission for NIHE (DPG) approval is made more than 12 months after notification of the original decision.

Read more in Scheme Approval.

Multiple Scheme Proposals exceeding Housing Need requirements

It may be that more than one proposal is received from Associations to meet identified housing need in a particular location. In this event, provided the scheme is suitable in terms of unit numbers and housing mix, the NIHE (AP) will issue support on a first come first served basis until the housing need is met. This will allow the Association to proceed with preparing for application for scheme approval. Any informed assessment of the quality of scheme proposals can only be made at the stage of application for Scheme Approval to NIHE (DPG).  NIHE (DPG) will make the detailed, informed assessment of the quality of the scheme in terms of design, costs and value for money at this juncture. Any potential Housing Management difficulties or density issues, for example, may be highlighted to the Association as part of the assessment.

Supported Housing - Prioritisation of Housing Need

NIHE, as lead organisation responsible for the delivery of the Supporting People Programme has, in partnership with the Health & Social Services Board, and the Probation Board, established a joint Planning and Commissioning Framework for supported housing and housing support services called the Supporting People Commissioning Body.

Supporting People Commissioning Body (Regional)

The Supporting People Commissioning Body is made up of representatives from the Health & Social Services Board, the Probation Board, and the Housing Executive.  Further, Area Supporting People Partnerships (ASPPs) have been established to support the Commissioning body. The Supporting People Commissioning Body is responsible for making definitive regional commissioning decisions.

Four Area Supporting People Partnerships (Local) are in operation.

These partnerships include nominees from the Board, its Trusts, the Probation Board and NIHE.  The Partnerships are the first tier of decision-makers tasked with establishing the extent of supported housing need and assessing the relative strategic priority of complementary housing support services.  The Partnerships also determine the need for accommodation-based solutions in their local areas.

It will normally be the case that the ASPP will highlight the need for a particular supported housing scheme. A Partner Housing Association will then be selected. Where an Association identifies a potentially suitable site for supported housing development they should contact NIHE (AP) in the first instance before proceeding further.

Associations should only bring forward capital and revenue funding proposals for supported housing schemes when there is written confirmation of the need for the scheme from NIHE Corporate Services Division

All queries in regard to NIHE Supporting People funding should be directed to:

Supporting People
Northern Ireland Housing Executive
3rd Floor, The Housing Centre
2 Adelaide Street

Tel: 028 9031 8413
Fax: 028 9031 8391
email: supporting people@nihe.gov.uk
Website: Supporting People

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