Have your say on housing future

HOUSING Minister Nelson McCausland is urging people in Ballymoney and Moyle to have their say on the future of housing here.

Speaking in the Assembly to launch a consultation on Northern Ireland’s first housing strategy ‘Facing the Future’, the Minister said there was a need for leadership, commitment and partnership to deliver real and lasting change.

The Minister said: “This is Northern Ireland’s first housing strategy. The proposals set out milestones for the next five years and a vision focused on ensuring access to good quality housing at a reasonable cost.

“Of course, facing the future means facing the realities of economic recovery, creating employment and regenerating our most deprived and neglected communities and the future of housing here has a significant role to play.

“We need to create the right conditions to grow a sustainable housing market, provide support for individuals and families and get the structures in place that will deliver for future generations.

“We know that for every 10 jobs created through the social housing programme, seven will be sustained elsewhere. We know that having a place to call home helps to build a safe, healthy and prosperous society. And we know that changes coming as a result of welfare reform will present further challenges ahead.

“This housing strategy is about delivering a programme for the next five years to get Northern Ireland building, working and living in housing that best meets their needs, is affordable and makes best use of the budgets and assets we have at our disposal.”

The strategy has five key themes – ensuring access to decent, affordable, sustainable homes across all tenures; meeting housing needs and supporting the most vulnerable; housing and welfare reform; driving regeneration and sustaining communities through housing; and getting the structures right.

Proposals include:

· establishing a Housing Supply Forum

· seeking to establish an interest free loan to promote the development of affordable homes

· exploring the options of rent to buy schemes and long term leases as a way of promoting access to affordable housing

· encouraging greater competition and partnership in the delivery of new social homes

· commissioning a fundamental review of how social housing is allocated

· an empty homes initiative

· a housing led regeneration programme

· new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour

· re-establishing a Living Over the Shops initiative

The Minister told MLAs that the views of a number of key stakeholders, including representatives from the construction sector, housing professionals and organisations representing the interests of tenants and the homeless had helped to shape the strategy.

Minister McCausland continued: “It is now over to the people of Northern Ireland. I would like to hear your views as homeowners, private or social tenants, first time buyers, developers, builders, landlords and support organisations. During the consultation there will be events in Belfast and Londonderry and I would encourage you to give your view as we face the future together.”

The Minister will publish his final action plan early in 2013.