ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Committee's Response to Department re NIHE Review

Room 412
Parliament Buildings
BELFAST
BT4 3XX
Email: kevin.pelan@niassembly.gov.uk
Tel: 028 9052 1864
Fax: 028 9052 1667

11 October 2011

Our Ref: CSD/022/2011/CMcC

Ms Margaret Sisk
Department for Social Development
Lighthouse Building
1 Cromac Place
Gasworks Business Park
Ormeau Road
Belfast BT7 2JB

Dear Margaret,

NIHE Review – Briefing by Pricewaterhouse Coopers

At its meeting of 29 September 2011, the Committee for Social Development received a briefing from Pricewaterhouse Coopers on the outcome of their ‘mature conversation’ with key stakeholders on the proposals contained in their independent report: Review of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive- Strategic Review of Options for Future Service Delivery.

Following this briefing, Members expressed the following views in respect of the proposals contained within the report:

  • That the Review should have been extended to include the Department’s Housing Division and Housing Associations;
  • The need for an independent housing authority to deal with policy and strategy which would feed back to the Minister;
  • The need to ensure a balanced workforce in any new housing authority which is formed following the Review;
  • The need to ensure that the proposed independent regulator with responsibility for rent-setting remains totally independent to minimise the risk of massive hikes in rent - particularly for the most vulnerable tenants;
  • The impact on both the quality of stock and security of tenure for tenants under the new regime;
  • The potential savings to be realised from the restructuring of the Housing Executive and the potential impact on existing staff;
  • The impact of the forthcoming Welfare Reform Bill on the proposals contained within the report, such as the proposal to join-up citizen services in Job, Benefits and Housing offices;
  • The importance of retaining neighbourhood renewal as a core principle in the proposed Social Enterprise Landlord organisation;
  • The limited lease period allowed for the proposed Social Enterprise Landlord organisation particularly on ; and
  • The possibility of transferring those properties which do not meet the decent homes standard to Housing Associations. There was concern that the Savills report was being used to influence the Department’s policy in respect of the maintenance of housing stock.

Members also indicated that more information should be provided in any future report on the following issues:

  • The planned constitution and operation of the proposed Social Enterprise Landlord organisations and in particular more details of good practice models in other jurisdictions;
  • The level and format of tenant participation in any proposed Social Enterprise Landlord organisation;
  • The figures used to assess the level of vulnerability of Housing Executive tenants;
  • The impact of the restricted lease period (35-50 years) on a tenant’s right to buy and on succession tenancies;
  • Clarity on whether there is a legal requirement for the decent homes standard to be met; and
  • The proposal for a ‘Joined-up Citizen Services in Jobs, Benefits and Housing offices’ – Members sought details on how this component will work in practice.

Yours sincerely

Dr Kevin Pelan
Clerk, Committee for Social Development

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