Northern Ireland

Housing Executive likely to be replaced by several new associations

Housing Executive
Image caption The Housing Executive was established in 1971

The new chairman of the Housing Executive has revealed his proposals for its break-up.

Donald Hoodless said he could see five to seven housing associations being created from the old executive.

The executive's 90,000 homes and most of its 3,000 staff are to move under proposals for the organisation's break-up.

The new associations will probably be set up on a regional basis.

"It's still open that some of the stock could transfer to existing housing associations, but essentially new housing associations are likely to be formed," Mr Hoodless said.

"I can see three, five or perhaps a maximum of seven housing associations being created from the Housing Executive stock.

"But that is a debate we will inaugurate some time in the summer onwards, so we can have a wider discussion among everyone about how many (associations), where they are, and what they are actually able to achieve."

Unlike the Housing Executive, the new associations will be able to access private finance to use towards building more homes.

"With the concerns that public expenditure is declining significantly, which would then limit the ability of the Housing Executive to maintain and improve its housing stock, private money would fill that gap," Mr Hoodless said.

The Housing Executive was set up in 1971 in the wake of deep political controversy over how housing was allocated.

According to Mr Hoodless, the principle of the allocation of public housing on the basis of need would not change, although it would be carried out by a new body.

"It is an important imperative that all housing is allocated according to need," he added.

"In the future arrangements, the common allocation system will be run by the new regional housing body and every housing association will have to sign up to it, and be part of it, as it is now.

Timetable

"I think it's very important that the common allocation remains and everyone will follow it because that is the basis of the work of the Housing Executive over 40 years, which has gained its reputation for non-discrimination in allocations."

In recent years, there has been a series of controversies and reports about the executive's performance, and how it ran and maintained its housing stock.

The view of the minister for social development, Nelson McCausland, is that the Housing Executive is "no longer sustainable" and is not making "the best use of public money". He has proposed its break-up.

The timetable for implementation is 2015 but, according to the chairman, the changes are subject to political agreement.

"The minister's programme is that this is settled by 2015," he said.

"All I can say is the Housing Executive will be ready for that.

"We will have done all our work enabling that to proceed, but it depends on politicians fulfilling their role in passing the legislation, and agreeing the structures, the rent panel, the number of associations, so there is a lot of work to be done."

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