Northern Ireland news

Platform: The Right to a Home

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín

HOUSING stress is increasing here, despite investment and measures to improve supply and standards, our current system is broken.

Transformative change is needed to address the huge challenges we face in tackling our growing housing waiting lists and the growing number of people and families most in need of a social home.

That much needed change is central to my recently announced plans for the need to revitalise the Housing Executive.

The changes that I will bring will ensure that the Housing Executive can build more homes where they are needed and provide essential maintenance to the 85,000 homes they currently manage. I want to provide security for current tenants and homes for future generations.

I intend to reintroduce ring-fencing, which means money will be protected to prioritise areas where there is highest housing need, such as north Belfast, west Belfast and Derry city.

The Right to Buy policy introduced by the Thatcher Government in the 1980s meant that thousands of Housing Executive homes were sold and never replaced. This has undoubtedly placed huge, additional pressure onto a growing social housing waiting list and particularly for those most in need. A public consultation on ending the Right to Buy scheme will be introduced.

To the tenants who have applications in currently to buy their Housing Executive or social home, I will ensure those are considered before the Right to Buy scheme ends.

I was pleased to recently announce £145 million funding for co-ownership to help over 4,000 people afford to buy their own homes over the next four years. I want to ensure that co-ownership is easily accessible for people who want to own their own home.

My plans include the transformation of other tenures including introducing legislation to improve safety, security and quality of homes for those people living in the private rented sector.

For some people and families, private renting is a suitable option. However, for many others, it is their only choice.

I accept that landlords run businesses, but I am calling time on rogue landlords. I will not allow them to continue to exploit tenants. People and families living in the private rented sector face the highest rents, and often get the least in return for their money.

Everyone who lives in a rented home should be able to do so safely. All rented homes should have safe electrics and tenants should be able to live free of the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Part of my plans will be to consider an enhanced role for our councils in relation to registration and enforcement in the private rented sector.

In parallel to all this work in the social and private rented sectors, I will be prioritising action to improve our response to homelessness, to focus on prevention rather than management.

Equality and rights are the basis of my approach, and you can't get more basic than the right to a home.

:: Carál Ní Chuilín is Minister for Communities

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