The Department for Communities has launched a public consultation on proposals to improve how social homes are allocated.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) Housing Selection Scheme, the system for assessing housing need and allocating social homes, has been in place, largely unchanged, since 2000. Housing stress is affecting over 22,000 households in Northern Ireland and 11,000 households per year are considered homeless.
The proposals published today for a 12 week consultation follow extensive research by the Department and a debate on the Housing Selection Scheme in the Assembly in September 2016.
The system will continue to be an objective assessment of housing need and the proposals aim to ensure that those in the greatest housing need receive priority, with recognition of their time in need.
There are 20 proposals in total which include:-
- A greater choice of areas for all applicants;
- A reduction from three to two in the number of reasonable offers;
- The removal of intimidation points and temporary (interim) accommodation points;
- More emphasis on time waiting by placing applicants in bands based on similar level of need; and
- Specialist properties, such as wheelchair accessible accommodation, should be allocated by a separate process.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “The Department recognises the need for changes to the current Housing Selection Scheme and has therefore launched a public consultation on its proposals on how to make the allocations process more fair, transparent and effective for all.
“The proposals build on the strengths of our current allocations system and put forward proposals, informed by entirely independent research, on how the system can be improved. The review aims to tackle the long waiting times many face and address the needs of our most vulnerable applicants, by placing more emphasis on time waiting, based on similar levels of need.
“The Department would be keen to hear the views of all those interested in this important issue.”
The outcome of this consultation and draft EQIA, including proposals for change, will be presented to a Minister in due course.
The consultation will run until 21 December 2017. The consultation can be found online.
Notes to editors:
1. The consultation document ‘A Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy’ and draft EQIA are available on the Department’s website, along with details on how to respond, research associated with the review, Impact Assessments and the Equality Screening document.
2. Responses to the consultation can be made online or sent to email@example.com or Social Housing Policy Team, Department for Communities, Level 3, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7EG. The Department will also be hosting a series of public events in Belfast, Omagh, Londonderry and Craigavon. Details of the venues, dates and times are available
3. The proposals support five outcomes as follows:
- A greater range of solutions to meet housing need;
- An improved system for the most vulnerable applicants;
- A more accurate waiting list that reflects current housing circumstances;
- Those in greatest housing need receive priority, with recognition of their time in need; and
- Better use of public resources by ensuring the waiting list moves smoothly.
4. The review was approved for public consultation by the Minister in late December 2016.
5. While the NIHE administers the Housing Selection Scheme, both the NIHE and Registered Housing Associations use it to allocate social homes.
6. Housing stress is defined as those who are awarded 30 points or more within the Housing Selection Scheme. People may be found to be homeless if it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy their current accommodation. Those accepted as homeless in Northern Ireland each year includes households who are without any form of accommodation, those living in hostels or staying with friends and family and those who are in accommodation, including a social or private home, that is not suitable to their needs.
7. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Communities Press Office on 028 90823505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
8. Follow us on twitter at @CommunitiesNI
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