During Stormont’s absence, issues such as housing association reclassification and the NIHE’s funding had been placed on hold. However, the recent deal has given significant attention to tackling housing stress, particularly social housing in Northern Ireland.
Still, a new law would be required to reverse the Office of National Statistics’ decision to reclassify housing associations as public bodies. Successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland have publicly committed to passing the necessary legislation, with reclassification already reversed in the rest of the UK.
The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) says that if this is not done by March, its housing associations will no longer be able to match government grants with private funding – significantly cutting the number of social homes that can be built.
Statistics provided by the Department for Communities show that as of March last year 26,387 people on the social housing waiting list are likely to be living in unsuitable or unsafe accommodation. That’s an increase of 9% on the 24,148 households facing stress on the year before – the highest level recorded since records began in 2002/03.
Against this, housebuilding stats over the July-September quarter saw a 14% drop on the 2018 equivalent. Official estimates now suggest Northern Ireland now needs around 7,200 new homes to be built each year to meet necessary demands.