There are a number of Pilot Schemes currently being explored by the Department. These are as follows:

Pilot scheme guidance

Pilot, or exemplar, schemes within the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) provide vital information to DfC to allow for informed decisions be made regarding betterments to the Housing Association Guide in relation to the Design Standards. Once DfC propose a pilot, the Pilot’s Design Standards (betterments) shall be set as an objective for this Pilot scheme’s successful delivery. Additional grant may be offered as a contribution to meeting the higher costs of specific design aspects of Pilot or exemplar schemes where these exceed the minimum standards in the Guide.

These changes will affect the cost to deliver the SHDP units and therefore on completion the pilot shall provide relevant cost information to allow the effect of these improvements on the associated Total Cost Indicator (TCI) Allowances / Multipliers to be duly considered by DfC. It follows therefore, that at final payment tranche it is essential that the Registered Housing Association (RHA) shall provide detailed evidence of the associated costs to deliver the Pilot’s objectives to NIHE's Development Programme Group (DPG). These costs shall then be considered in the context of a Housing Association Guide amendment and revised TCI Allowances / Multipliers.

DPG shall advise RHAs:

  • whether a single Pilot or multiple Pilot schemes are required; and
  • what timeline the Pilot(s) shall be delivered in.

The onus is then on Housing Associations to bring forward suitable schemes.

Associations should note that additional grant funding in respect of Pilot schemes is subject to prior agreement with NIHE’s DPG and the Department. Any design work carried out prior to consulting with DPG is undertaken at the Association’s own risk. Associations should therefore consult with NIHE DPG at the earliest opportunity, as schemes which are more fully developed and/or have little scope for meaningful engagement, may not be suitable for additional grant.

Pilot key stages:

The following are the key stages in the Pilot scheme process:

  1. NIHE DPG invite RHAs to bring forward schemes for consideration as a SHDP Pilot.
  2. RHA submits an application for preliminary ‘Pilot’ approval for a scheme to DPG. This application shall include:
  •  Drawings to RIBA ‘Stage 2’ (conceptual design stage);
  • Scoping paper highlighting the additional items relating to the Pilot cross-referenced, where appropriate, to drawings; and
  • Preliminary costs for scheme delivery. For comparison purposes the RHA shall provide:
    • a cost estimate for the scheme without the pilot design elements, but which would still  comply with the current HA Guide. An estimated Scheme Cost Index should be provided; and
    • a cost breakdown of the addition design elements relating to the pilot. An estimated Pilot Scheme Cost Index should also be provided.  
  1. DPG review this preliminary submission to confirm that it:
  • demonstrates broad compliance with current HA Guide Design Standards; and
  • complies with the objective(s) of the ‘Pilot’.

The viability of the scheme, without the financial effects of the considered Pilot, shall also be considered by DPG.

  1. From a viability perspective DPG will review the Pilot’s preliminary submission to ensure that there is sufficient information to determine whether the scheme is generally appropriate for a pilot:
  • If suitable, DPG write to DfC recommending that the RHA’s proposed scheme should be considered by DfC as a Pilot scheme.
  • If there is not sufficient information, DPG revert to the RHA with reasons and either request that the proposals are revised or that the scheme follows the normal approval process.
  1. Assuming 4a. (above) has been met, DfC consider the suggested Pilot to decide whether the scheme is generally appropriate for a Pilot and formally notify DPG that:
  • DfC preliminarily accepts scheme as a ‘Pilot;’ or
  • DfC reject scheme as a ‘Pilot’ and provide reasoning for rejection to be shared with the RHA.
  1. Accordingly, DPG write to the RHA to inform them of DfC’s decision.
  2. The RHA consider DPG/DfC’s provisional Pilot scheme approval and the associated risk of proceeding without DPG approval which can only be given to the RHA at full Scheme Approval stage. As such RHA need to be cognisant of the fact that the pilot’s scheme costs will need to be monitored throughout the design development stages, as ensuring Value for Money is paramount to the Department.

    If the estimated SCI exceeds 130%, the scheme’s status as a Pilot may have to be reconsidered by DPG/DfC. Pending the RHA’s acceptance of associated risk of no DPG approval to the Pilot (e.g. due to high costs) prior to full Scheme Approval stage, develop the scheme design to ‘RIBA Stage 4’ (Technical Design) in consultation with DPG and DfC to ensure that the proposed scheme meets the pilot’s initial design and cost requirements. (If required, DfC and DPG, may suggest fundamental changes to the design to ensure compliance with the Pilot’s brief).

    Throughout this process, the RHA shall provide feedback on design standards and associated costs including a breakdown of those costs relating to the Pilot requirements.
  3. DPG and DfC shall agree and advise the RHA that the additional Pilot specific costs are acceptable in principle, with the level of funding to be confirmed (subject to further detailed scrutiny as part of the detailed Scheme Approval process);
  4. RHA submits scheme for DPG’s full Scheme Approval.
  5. DPG carry out a scheme assessment and subject to their internal approval details of the associated scheme are submitted to DfC/HAU for final comment and/or approval dependent on Delegated Limits.
  6. If applicable, Scheme Approval and start on site recorded. At completion stage, RHA provide details of actual costs to DPG which are forwarded to DfC/HAU to inform potential changes to the HA Guide and consideration of future Multipliers.
  7. RHA arrange for site visits on completion and provide detail regarding actual costs.
  8. RHA carry out a scheme specific, individual, PPE, which will be shared with DPG and DfC/HAU.

Duplication of funding

There may be a scenario where the Department is running a number of initiatives (e.g. Pilot schemes) at any one time. Where a RHA is seeking additional funding to adopt more than one DfC initiative on a scheme, and there are certain design elements which are common to more than one Pilot proposal, a RHA will only receive additional grant for that element under one initiative, in order to avoid duplication of funding.

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