Belfast Telegraph

Conference hears of social housing benefits

By Margaret Canning

Investing in social housing will help drag Northern Ireland's economy out of the doldrums, a housing conference has heard.

Housing ministers from both sides of the border are at the conference on housing policy, organised by the University of Ulster.

Discussion of the economic benefits of investing in social housing comes as the construction industry in Northern Ireland slumps to its lowest output in five years.

The Assembly has also passed the Welfare Reform Bill, which will affect the payment of housing benefit.

Paddy Gray, professor of housing at the University of Ulster, said: "It has never been so important to think about the long term future of housing in Ireland, both north and south of the border.

"With the new Welfare Reform Bill proposals set to impact massively on organisations, households and local communities, this conference will examine innovative solutions that mitigate the worst of these policies."

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland also told the conference that the housing market could support economic growth, and referred to a recently-launched housing strategy, Facing the Future.

"The strategy sets out how we can create the right conditions to grow a sustainable housing market, provide support for individuals and families and get the structures in place that will deliver for future generations," the minister added.

The Republic's bad bank Nama has been pinpointed as a source of affordable, social housing.

The conference continues today.