Housing Association Guide - Glossary

Part of: Housing Association Guide


Accounting Period
The period to which the income and expenditure account of an RHA relates.

Acquisition and Works is an arrangement whereby the Association acquires land or property and commissions the construction of new dwellings. More information available on scheme types.

Acquisition and Works (Rehabilitation)
Existing dwellings are purchased and require substantial repair and improvement, conversion or extension for social housing for rent.

Advanced Land Purchase (ALP)
This facility allows Associations undertaking acquisition and new build developments to acquire, in advance, the land element of the scheme with grant aid from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Affordable Housing
The Department’s consultation paper launched in June 2019 detailed proposals for a revised definition of affordable housing, which would enable the development of a wider range of intermediate housing products. As a result of the consultation the definition was revised.  

Area Band
Floor areas (i.e. sizes of properties) are grouped into a range of area bands. This is used in calculating the Grant payable to the RHA.


Bidding Round
An annual review of the Social Housing Development Programme is required to take account of changes in housing demand and new housing opportunities for social housing that have been identified.  This review is known as the ‘bidding round’.


Capital Grant System
The Capital Grant System details the procedures to be followed by Associations in order to access mixed funding from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for the provision of social housing for rent.

Code for Sustainable Homes
A standard for key elements of design and construction which affect the sustainability of a new home.

Completion describes the stage when a scheme is handed over by the contractor to the Association who certifies the work is completed.  The Association can then make a claim for the final tranche payment in respect of that scheme. For further guidance refer to NEC Engineering Construction Contract

Registered Housing Associations are statutorily obliged to consult secure tenants on decisions of housing management as defined in Article 40 (2) of the Housing (NI) Order 1983.

Housing sold on a part rent/part sale basis.  The shared owner buys a percentage of the property, funded by a mortgage and/or savings.  The remaining percentage is still owned by the Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association (NICHA) which charges rent on it.

Cost Groups
Funding system is to achieve value for money in return for grant.  TCI form the basis of this system and are divided into unit types and cost group areas on a city/district council basis.

Cost Overrun
This is the situation where a scheme has cost more than was originally estimated at Project Approval and the Association may be able to claim additional Housing Association Grant (HAG).  The Association must put forward a case demonstrating that the items claimed for were necessary and also unforeseen at Project Approval stage.


In certain cases, e.g. major adaptations such as extensions, it might be considered necessary for the tenant to be moved to temporary accommodation such as another dwelling, mobile home or caravan for the duration of the work.

Departmental Adjustment
A Departmental Adjustment is an adjustment to TCI which is set at DPG/the Department’s discretion to reflect high cost locations and so make the index more sensitive to local circumstances.  It applies for tariff-funded Associations.

Design & Build (Competitive Tendering)
An arrangement where an Association produces a detailed brief and then advertises for suitable Design & Build contractors to apply for inclusion on a select list to be asked to tender.  The contractors are responsible for undertaking or developing the design, either in-house or by appointing consultants to undertake the task, and for the construction of the dwelling.
More information available on scheme types.

Design and Build Package Deals
An arrangement where the land is owned by a contractor/developer who will only sell on condition that the Association contracts with the contractor/developer for the design and construction of the new dwellings.  This type of arrangement is in breach of EU Procurement Requirements and, therefore, is not acceptable.
More information available on scheme types.

Development Milestones
A prequalification is the major scheme development ‘step’ or ‘milestone’ that an Association must comply with in order to meet the agreed timetable in the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) and the Department’s project approval criteria.  Each ‘step’ or ‘milestone’ represents what must be achieved or obtained at a particular stage.

Design Standards
These are the minimum design standards required by the Department for all new build social housing schemes that receive Housing Association Grant (HAG) or utilise Disposal Proceeds Funds (DPF).

The Department for Communities which has responsibility for Housing.

Disposal Proceeds Fund
An internal fund within the accounts of an RHA allowing the re-use of the Net proceeds of sales under the Statutory House Sales Scheme.  An Association may hold the proceeds for two years from the completion of the contract.  Each purchase must undergo scheme approval.  Unspent funds beyond the two year limit are returned to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as a receipt.

Development Programme Group of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).


Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating for environmental sustainability.

Economic Appraisal
This is a key tool for achieving value for money (VFM) and satisfying public accountability requirements.  It is a systematic process for examining alternative uses of resources, focusing on assessment of needs, objectives, options, costs, risks and other factors relevant to decisions.

Energy Performance Certificates
The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires member states to introduce measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and raise energy awareness amongst the public.  Article 7 of the EPBD requires member states to require the issue of an Energy Performance Certificate when buildings are constructed, sold or rented out.

Equity Sharing
Similar to Co-Ownership but most likely acquired from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) or a Registered Housing Association (RHA).

Existing Satisfactory Purchase (ESP)
Existing Satisfactory Purchases (ESPs) are when existing properties occupied as a residence for at least 12 months are purchased, following inspection and independent valuation by an Association, having been openly advertised in the property market unless the property has either been:

  • offered to the Association by a former tenant under the terms of the Statutory House Sales Scheme. That requires tenants who have purchased NIHE or Association properties and are selling within 10 years of purchase, to firstly offer the property for sale to the original Association or
  • is being offered directly for sale to an Association by the NIHE.

Acquisition of ESPs is via a purchase contract that shall not include the Association instructing the vendor to deliver repairs or upgrading of a property as a requirement of the property purchase. The condition of the properties should be such that they do not require full rehabilitation, but may require a degree of repair/checks/upgrading to bring them up to an acceptable standard for letting, that are procured after the purchase contract has been completed.
More information available on scheme types.


Final Costs Assessment Stage
This takes place at Practical Completion stage of the development on the basis of forecast final costs.  At this stage the final costs to be approved for grant will normally be determined by NIHE (DPG), the exception being tariff-funded schemes.

The Foyer concept is an integrated approach to meeting the needs of young people aged 16 -25 during their transition from dependence to independence by linking affordable accommodation to training and employment.  


General Needs Housing
Applies to general family housing and dwellings for singles and couples.  The accommodation is normally provided in self-contained bungalow, house, flat or maisonette form, but for singles can be in ‘shared’ dwelling form.

Grant Rate
A part of the calculation of HAG, Grant Rates represent the maximum proportion of scheme costs which will be funded by any form of public subsidy.


House Sales Scheme
The House Sales Scheme is a statutory scheme that allows tenants of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Registered Housing Associations (RHA) to buy, in full or part, the home that they currently rent.

Housing Association Grant (HAG)
A payment made to Registered Housing Associations to acquire land or buildings and to build, convert or improve housing for rent.

Housing Benefit
A government means-tested benefit which pays all or part of the rent, rates and service charge for a property.

Housing Inspections
The procedure by which the RHA’s auditors and the Department Housing Inspection Team assess the quality and procedural compliance of schemes developed by RHA’s.  

Housing Need
Requirements for Affordable and Social Housing are assessed by NIHE and published in its District housing Plans.  Housing need must be confirmed before a scheme will be approved by NIHE (DPG).

Housing Quality Indicator (HQI)
A comprehensive set of measures used to evaluate existing and planned housing developments on the basis of quality as opposed to simply cost.  The indicators cover the location, the design and the performance of the housing project – these 3 categories produce 10 ‘Quality Indicators’ that make up the HQI system.


Independent Qualified Valuer
The District  Valuer or a professional associate or fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers or any successor body or bodies thereof, who is not employed by, or acting on behalf of, or a member of the family of, the person or organisation selling or transferring or purchasing the property or land being valued.  

Intermediate Housing
This generally refers to Co-Ownership housing provided by the Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association (NICHA).

Introductory Tenancies
All new tenancies from 1 April 2004 are on an introductory basis for the first twelve months.  An Introductory Tenancy emphasises to the tenant the importance of reasonable standards of behaviour and adherence to the conditions of tenancy and statutory obligations.


Joint Management Agreement
An agreement between an Association and a specialist care provider to facilitate management of Association owned stock used for supported housing.


This includes a sub-lease, sub-tenancy or licence and an agreement for a lease, tenancy, licence, sub-lease or sub-tenancy.

Lifetime Homes
Consists of standards that have been developed to ensure that any home is flexible, adaptable and accessible and that there is added comfort, convenience and safety for tenants and visitors.  Lifetime Homes criteria are based on ‘Designing Lifetime Homes’ produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.

Local District Council
A Council set up in a local government district under the Local Government Act (NI) 1972.  The addition of the title Borough and City to a district council provides ceremonial and other functions.


Major Repairs Works
Excluding improvements, to a dwelling owned by an RHA that are necessary to ensure the continued habitability of the dwelling, and are not maintenance items.  Part of the Miscellaneous Works category.

Market Value
A formal valuation method set out in the RICS Red Book.

Minor Miscellaneous Works
A category of work funding various minor repairs to RHA property.  It includes Adaptation for people with disabilities, Insulation/Energy conservation and other works.  Part of the Miscellaneous Works category.

Miscellaneous Works
A category of works that covers Major Repairs and Minor Miscellaneous Works funded by HAG.

Mixed Funding (MF)
The generic term to describe the combination of HAG and private borrowing.

These are applied to the base TCI figures to allow for scheme variations.  The basic eligible grant is multiplied by the applicable multiplier so that the RHA is paid grant based on what is actually provided.  A range of multipliers can be used e.g. supported housing multiplier, common room multiplier, wheelchair multiplier and EcoHomes multiplier.


Needs Group
A term used to describe the category of housing ‘need’ i.e. Elderly, General Needs – family, single homeless etc.

Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association which assists people to become homeowners through buying a part of a house and renting the other part.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is a non-departmental public body and as the sole assessor of housing need, the Housing Executive determines the overall social housing programme including the Social Housing Development Programme and determines delivery of those programmes.  

Non Qualifying Costs
These are the items identified in the scheme proposals which do not qualify for HAG e.g. garages, greenhouses.  It also refers to costs that are beyond the acceptable level of provision for HAG.

Non-Tariff funding
This is the term applied where funding is allocated based on the actual qualifying scheme costs and the associated grant rate.


Off the Shelf Schemes
OTSs are newly constructed properties that should as standard practice be offered via public advertisement in the property market by a contractor/developer or their agent for a fixed price on the basis of a single conveyancing contract (a purchase contract) and will be subject to inspection and independent valuation by the Association prior to purchase.  Properties acquired as an OTS are either:

  • newly constructed properties for first-time occupation by Housing Association tenants or
  • properties that have been occupied privately for a period not exceeding 12 months from completion.

The property as advertised on the property market shall meet the Association’s requirements and those of the Housing Association Guide, as far as is reasonably practicable, as the opportunity for alteration to the property is not provided in this procurement with the exception of minor ancillary works.

For further guidance see scheme types.

On-costs are a proportioned amount allowable in the grant calculation in relation to the development and administrative costs borne by the Association for a scheme.  Items such as stamp duty, legal fees, borrowing fees, consultants’ fees, insurance premiums and home loss and disturbance payments are included.  These expenses are allowed for in the form of a percentage calculation (the level depends on the type of project) which is added to the estimated works costs and purchase price then measured against TCI.


Practical Completion
Practical Completion describes the stage when a scheme is handed over by the contractor to the Association who certifies the work is completed.  The Association can then make a claim for the final tranche payment in respect of that scheme.

Private Finance
Private Finance is the amount of money the RHA obtains from private sources to supplement the amount of Housing Association Grant (HAG) they receive in order to deliver a particular scheme.  This varies from scheme to scheme.

Public procurement is the process of the acquisition, usually by means of a contractual arrangement after public competition, of goods, services, works and other supplies by the public service.

Project Approval
This is the document authorised and issued by DPG (NIHE) which informs the Association that NIHE approves the proposed mix, design and costs.  It also advises the Association of the award of HAG.  In addition, the approval obliges the Association to build the scheme as approved.  Formal approval must be sought if there are any proposed changes.

Public Subsidy
This term describes an amount of money that is deducted from the HAG award, based on a valuation of land, where the land in question is transferred to the Association from a public body to a developing social housing without the Association having to make a direct payment.  This ensures that the Association is not receiving double funding from public funds for the same item.


Qualifying Costs
Scheme costs which can be considered for payment of HAG.


Regulatory Framework
Sets out the Department’s governance, management and operational expectations of RHA’s and their obligations within the regulatory system.

These are a category of ‘works only’ rehabilitation to association owned property.  Works to the property may be either improvement and repair, or conversion and repair, but not repairs only.
More information available on scheme types.

Revised Approvals
A facility exists to allow changes to be made to scheme proposals after approval but only in certain circumstances.

Registered Housing Association.


Scheme Signage - Departmental Branding Requirements
The provision of signage is mandatory for ALL new build schemes. Where it is being erected for schemes in receipt of funding provided by NIHE from the Department, the Association must comply with the Department’s signage requirements.

Secured by Design
A national police initiative to encourage the adoption of crime prevention measures in the initial design process so as to reduce the opportunity for crime and fear of crime, and to create a safer and more secure environment.  From 1 April 2008 the Department requires all Association new build, major rehabilitation and re-improvement schemes seeking HAG funding to achieve the ‘Secured by Design’ award.

Self Contained Accommodation
This type of accommodation provides each household, defined as a tenancy, with all their basic facilities behind their own lockable front door.

Shared Housing
Residential accommodation, other than in separate and self contained premises and predominantly for single persons, which includes a degree of sharing between tenants of some facilities e.g. kitchen, bathroom, living room.

Social Housing Development Programme.

Site Registration
Site registration is mandatory and is intended to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort by two or more Associations investigating the development potential of the same site.

Social Housing
General housing for rent by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Registered Housing Associations (RHA) which has been provided with public subsidy.

Supported Housing
Housing usually for a special needs group where varying degrees of extra support may be provided.  

Statutory Charge
Under Article 13 of the 1992 Housing Order, Associations are required to get consent from the Department to dispose of any property purchased/built using HAG.

Start on Site
This is the second key stage in a scheme’s progress after acquisition.  On-site is when the contractor takes formal possession of the site to commence working.  It is also when the Association will claim the second of three HAG tranches.


Tariff Funding
This is a system whereby a number of Associations are guaranteed a fixed amount of funding at the start of each year to cover their commitments.  The system offers these Associations a degree of flexibility in their programme(s) in that they can replace schemes which may be slipping.  Tariff funded schemes are costed at TCI levels.  Cost overruns cannot apply.

In obtaining tenders for the works the Association must select the procurement method it considers most cost effective, subject to the criteria and advice contained in….More information available on Procurement.

Total Cost Indicators (TCI)
The TCI system sets out the benchmark costs to cover all aspects of development from land acquisition to construction of houses.  TCI are used to achieve value for money in the provision of social housing by RHA’s and to ensure that the appropriate level of grant is paid.  TCI may be up-rated twice a year (April & October).  

At 3 key stages in the development process of a scheme (acquisition, onsite and practical completion), a certain percentage amount of the HAG awarded on the Project Approval may be paid, dependent on scheme type. These grant payments are known as tranches.


Voluntary Purchase Grant (VPG)
The Voluntary Purchase Grant is a grant that compensates Housing Associations for the discount claimed by a tenant exercising his/her right to buy.

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