Contact: Mrs Sara Steele, Democratic Services Officer 90320202 x6301
Apologies for inability to attend were reported on behalf of Councillors Flynn, M. Kelly, McReynolds and Newton.
Declarations of Interest
No Declarations of Interest were recorded.
The Committee was informed that representatives of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) were in attendance to provide the second annual update on the Housing Investment Plan for Belfast 2019-2023, as well as an update on their Revitalisation Programme.
Accordingly, Ms. G. Long, Chief Executive, together with Ms. E. Newberry, Assistant Director Land and Strategic Regeneration, Mrs. J. Hawthorne, Regional Manager Belfast, Ms. F. McGrath, Head of Place Shaping Belfast, Mr. P. Reid, Land and Housing Analytics Manager, Mr. K. Boyle, Housing Analytics Manager, Mr. B. O’Kane, Senior Principal Officer, Mr. P. Kelly and Mr. P. McCombe, Area Managers, and, Mr. A. McKenna, Assistant Manager, were welcomed to the meeting.
The Chief Executive provided an overview of Housing Executive spend across Belfast during 2020/2021, detailing that, of the £177.6m spent, £116.7m related to ‘Investment New Build’, £18.08m had been spent on planned maintenance and improvements, £15.41m on response maintenance, and £20.62m on the Supporting People Programme. She also detailed projected spend for 2021/22, including £24.18m allocated to planned maintenance, £18.11m for response maintenance, £21.16 to Supporting People, and £13.46m for stock improvements. The significant challenges in accessing material supply chains and labour shortages were touched upon, and the Members were advised that the Housing Executive stock in Belfast was 25,407 homes.
The following priorities from within the NIHE 2021/2022 Business Plan were highlighted as of interest to the Members of the Committee:
· Working with the Department for Communities to revitalise the Housing Executive;
· Managing and maintaining over 85,000 homes;
· Providing £72.8m Supporting People funding for 19,000+ housing support places;
· Delivering the Homelessness Strategy actions to find housing solutions for those facing homelessness;
· Planning and managing a programme to increase the supply of new social homes with 1,900 starts and 1,400 completions;
· Investing £216m to improve tenants’ homes;
· Delivering 11 Housing Investment Plans and contributing to Community Planning Partnerships to help create vibrant sustainable communities;
· Developing a new Climate Change Strategy to reduce carbon emissions, helping to sustain the environment for future generations;
· Launching a new apprenticeship learning scheme and introducing social clauses into contracts to provide local skills and employment;
· Processing Housing benefit applications to help tenants in both the public and private sector to meet their housing costs (in 2020/21 £532.7m was paid out).
In addition, an overview of the work undertaken as part of the Covid-19 recovery was provided, including the ‘Everyone In’ approach which supported rough sleepers, the acquisition of temporary accommodation, and bringing back into use void properties.
The Chief Executive explained that the Housing Investment Plan (HIP) provided an overview of the housing market in the Belfast City Council area and reflected Community Planning priorities locally. She confirmed that 55% of homes in Belfast were owner occupied, 19% private rented and 27% social rented, with a growth in the private rented sector seen in recent decades, in line with other cities.
The Members were presented with figures regarding waiting lists, which showed an increase in applications and those in housing stress, whilst the number of ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
Housing Executive's Revitalisation Programme (Verbal Update)
Ms. Long advised the Members of the Committee that the Housing Executive’s Revitalisation Programme had been launched by the Minister for Communities in November, 2020, as part of a larger set of policy announcements, with the core goal of enabling NIHE to borrow to fund sustainable investment in existing stock and to enable it to build new housing.
She added that the Programme had a strong focus on co-design and engagement with tenants and the wider community and was vital to meet the levels of challenge outlined as part of the HIP Update. She explained that their immediate priority was to prepare an Outline Business Case determining what level of investment was required, alongside a Landlord Business Plan, Engagement and Communications Plan, and to develop governance procedures which would involve tenants. She confirmed that the nature of the borrowing was not for NIHE to determine but would be a decision for the Minister.
A Member of the Committee raised concerns regarding the future plans, in particular, an anticipated move towards privatisation. In response to a question as to whether tenants would be given a say about the future status of NIHE, specifically, giving up its status as a landlord, the Chief Executive confirmed that the Housing Executive did not have a preferred model and that the nature of borrowing would be a ministerial decision, as would the role of tenants. She did however reiterate that the NIHE was a tenant centred organisation and undertook to provide ongoing updates to the Council regarding the Programme.
The Members of the Committee recommended that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to note the update provided.