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John Simpson

Time to look closely at Northern Ireland Housing Executive policy

John Simpson


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Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

PA

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey

Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey has responsibility for housing policy. Her inheritance is a confusing, expensive and heavily subsidised NI Housing Executive. Because NIHE needs to draw heavily from the public sector budget, temporising decisions are being made year on year.

The minister has postponed a modest rental increase to tenants from April until October. She has drawn attention to a five-year period when rents have been unaltered - good news for many of the 88,000 NIHE tenants. It has been less welcome news to the Stormont budget. The deferred adjustment to rents has drawn on funds that might have been available to improve housing or for other public services.

Increased public sector housing provision in NI is a necessity. There is a strong social need for a larger public sector housing programme and, in parallel, a housing regeneration programme. As the NIHE has shown, its inherited financial base means that there is a serious risk that thousands of NIHE properties will fall into serious disrepair.