Ending social housing right to buy: consultation on options launched

Over the last 40 years 119,000 Housing Executive and 3,000 Housing Association properties have been sold to tenants in the north.
Over the last 40 years 119,000 Housing Executive and 3,000 Housing Association properties have been sold to tenants in the north.

A public meeting to gather views on options which include potentially scrapping the right to buy scheme for social housing tenants here, is to be held in Derry next month.

The Department for Communities will host the meeting in the Millennium Forum on August 15, as part of a public consultation exercise launched this week.

Currently the House Sales Schemes here are available to all Housing Executive and Housing Association tenants, subject to certain conditions, which for many involves having to have been in their homes for at least five years. At present, tenants can get between 20 and 60 per cent off the market value of the house depending on how long they have lived there.

Three new options, however, have been proposed which involve either doing nothing, scrapping the right to buy for Housing Association tenants only, or ending the schemes for all tenants.

The proposal forms part of the Department’s work to reverse a decision by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to reclassify Housing Associations as public bodies rather than private ones.

The ONS looked at the level of control that government has over Housing Associations to determine if their status should change and concluded they should be reclassified as public bodies.

The Department report states that ending the sale of all social housing to tenants was the most likely way to get that decision reversed.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “Without a reversal of this classification decision, the number of new social homes built each year in Northern Ireland will be reduced significantly unless there was a significant increase in levels of funding allocated from the Executive’s Budget for the construction of new homes. The consultation sets out the issues and offers respondents the opportunity to provide their views on the way forward.”

At present the status of Housing Associations as private entities means that they can source private finance, which along with government grants, is the only way new social homes are currently built here.

In Derry, the presentation at the Forum will take place from 2pm to 4pm and there will be a ‘drop in session’ from 7pm to 9pm.

The consultation runs from now until September 24, and the results will inform policy options and legislative proposals for an incoming minister. The consultation documents can be found at: www.communities-ni.gov.uk/consultations/future-of-hss