Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland 'could face housing shortage'

builders at work on new homes Image copyright Press Association
Image caption The government reclassified UK housing associations as private concerns in 2017

Northern Ireland could face a housing shortage if legislation is not passed to reclassify housing associations as private bodies by the end of March, it has been warned.

The rules mean they may be unable to raise finance to build more homes.

The government reclassified UK housing associations as private concerns in 2017.

But the lack of a Stormont executive means equivalent legislation has not been introduced in Northern Ireland.

There have been calls for Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to ensure the legislation is passed at Westminster before the March deadline.

The issue needs to be resolved urgently, according to the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations.

"Associations are private businesses that have charitable status, so they are able to draw down private finance from a range of providers to match the 50-odd percent they get from government," Ben Collins told the BBC's Inside Business programme.

Image caption About 24,000 people are in urgent need of housing in Northern Ireland, says Ben Collins

"So that means that we are able to build twice as many homes as would otherwise be possible.

"If we don't get this issue resolved by the end of March that could mean that associations could go into the public sector and therefore not be able to draw down the private finance."

Mr Collins said there were about 24,000 people in urgent need of housing in Northern Ireland.

"This is a real issue that could get considerably worse if we don't address the issue of reclassification, to at least get the current arrangements continued until such time as we can get legislation passed," he said.

"The frustrating thing is that an order in council could approve this in two days at Westminster but we know that Brexit is clogging up everything else."

Inside Business is broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Sundays at 13:30 GMT and on Mondays at 18:30.