'Fewer housing associations needed'
The number of housing associations in Northern Ireland should fall, the Social Development Minister has said.
Nelson McCausland argued that the organisations must be leaner and called for rationalisation of the 31 bodies doing the work.
Seven associations were banned by the Department for Social Development from building homes while another three have had restrictions placed on them. Some failed inspections that looked at issues such as governance, finance and development.
Mr McCausland said: "I question whether it is right to have as many as 31 separate organisations all providing housing in a place the size of Northern Ireland.
"In my view, we must have a leaner, more fit-for-purpose movement. Rationalisation has to be the way forward but without losing the collective strengths of our big and not so big associations. I need you to be imaginative and creative about how we can best take this forward."
The minister addressed the annual conference of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations on the theme of time for change.
Mr McCausland supported robust inspection by government, given the substantial amount of public money being paid to social housing providers.
Rationalisation, including a more proactive role in representing and promoting the movement, would lead to a stronger more focused housing movement, he said.
He referred to the review of the Housing Executive, adding that he planned to make an announcement on the way forward by Christmas.
"I have not yet taken a view about the outcome of that work, but the case for change is already clear and the do-nothing option is, in effect, not an option," he said.