The Department for Communities has launched a consultation on the future of House Sales Schemes in Northern Ireland.
Currently House Sales Schemes, which are Northern Ireland’s equivalent to the ‘Right to Buy’ Scheme in Great Britain, are available to all Northern Ireland Housing Executive tenants and Housing Association tenants. To date, 119,000 Housing Executive and 3,000 Housing Association properties have been sold to tenants over the past four decades.
The options for the future of the House Sales Schemes for all tenants in Northern Ireland, is part of the Department’s work to reverse the decision by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to reclassify Housing Associations as public bodies. The Department will use the result of the consultation to inform policy options and legislative proposals for an incoming Minister.
The Office of National Statistics looked at the level of control that Government has over Housing Associations to determine if their status should change from private to public. It concluded that the level of control Government currently exercises over Housing Associations merits the Associations being reclassified as public bodies. One aspect of this control is the House Sales scheme which obliges Housing Associations to offer their properties for sale to tenants in certain specified circumstances.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “Without a reversal of this classification decision made by the Office for National Statistics in September 2016, the number of new social homes built each year in Northern Ireland will be reduced significantly unless there was a significant increase in levels of funding allocated from the Executive’s Budget for the construction of new homes. The consultation sets out the issues and offers respondents the opportunity to provide their views on the way forward.
“Any decision on whether and how to amend legislation arising from this consultation will be solely for Ministers to consider and take decisions. The purpose of the consultation exercise is to seek views on the options available so that these can be incorporated into the advice that will be provided to Ministers on the issues.”
Housing Associations status as private entities means that they can source private finance, which along with Government grants, is the only way new social homes are currently built in Northern Ireland. If Housing Associations were unable to access this private funding, this would reduce significantly the amount of money available each year to build new social homes.
As part of the Consultation, a number of public events will be held as follows:
- Tuesday 24 July – Skainos Centre, Belfast
- Wednesday 25 July - NICVA, Belfast
- Wednesday 1 August – The Braid, Ballymena
- Wednesday 8 August – Seagoe Hotel, Portadown
- Wednesday 15 August – Millennium Forum, Derry/Londonderry
- Wednesday 22 August – Fermanagh House, Enniskillen
- Wednesday 29 August – Canal Court Hotel, Newry.
The consultation period will run from 3 July 2018 to 24 September 2018.
Details of the public events and the consultation documents can be found at: www.communities-ni.gov.uk/consultations/future-of-hss
Notes to editors:
- An Equality Impact Assessment, Rural Needs Impact Assessment and Screening Framework Toolkit have all been completed and are published alongside the consultation document.
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