Belfast Telegraph

Housing reform 'could save £585m'

Public housing in Northern Ireland should be managed by a business owned by tenants to save £585 million over three decades, a review has said.

The social enterprise would be a non-profit making company assuming the landlord role of the Housing Executive, consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggested.

Politicians would still shape its investment priorities and social objectives but the new body would be outside the public sector.

Richard Parker, PwC head of housing, was giving evidence to the Social Development Committee at Stormont, and he said: "In purely financial terms this is not the most beneficial option we considered but it clearly emerged as the one which provided the best balance between the interests of tenants, staff and taxpayers."

The landlord function would be performed through the social enterprise, be split from the Housing Executive and be placed outside the public sector.

Self-funding and able to borrow against its assets and rental income, it would also be a not-for-profit mutual owned by tenants.

The review was ordered by former Social Development Minister Alex Attwood to devise options to make public housing more financially sustainable.

In 2009, a report stated that the Housing Executive needed £5.5 billion over the next 30 years to achieve a decent standard of housing.

Mr Parker also recommended a new strategic housing authority and a housing regulator, both with remits across all tenure types including private landlords, housing associations and the proposed tenant-owned social enterprise. The regulator would carry out independent inspections and governance while setting rent levels for social and affordable housing landlords.

There would be a benefit to the taxpayer of approximately £585 million over a 30-year period, the review added. Tenants would enjoy well-maintained homes and a real say in the governance and direction of the social enterprise which manages their homes, while communities would benefit from any trading surplus or dividend generated by the enterprise.

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