Social Development Tuesday 1 October 2013
Date: 01 October 2013
During today’s topical questions Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, revealed that Northern Ireland will be included in the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme recently announced by Prime Minister, David Cameron. Homes can be bought with a 5% deposit and banks such as RBS and Lloyds will be participating in the scheme. When Megan Fearon pressed the Minister on whether there would be an increase in social housing units to cope with demand, Mr McCausland expressed his dismay that many housing associations “haven’t stepped up to the mark” (with some having done no building at all) and assured the House that he would be pressing them to rise to the challenge.
Jim Allister then questioned the Minister on the future of the Directors of Design and Property Services who oversaw the Northern Ireland Housing Executive contracts associated with the alleged £18m overpayment on planned maintenance. Mr McCausland was reluctant to deliver any verdicts before the results of the report commissioned by the NIHE board into the overpayments are delivered. He revealed that the report is anticipated to be with the board “within a matter of days”. The Minister was also keen to stress that this was a matter entirely for the NIHE and that they would decide on any further appropriate action based on the findings of the external consultant.
The Minister also updated the Chamber on the progress of public realms works in Bangor and Holywood, the consultation processes used by housing associations, and how it was anticipated that town and city centre regeneration would be encouraged through the extension of the ‘Living over the shop’ scheme. An initiative that he hopes will “diversify and re-energise town and city centres”.