AQW 55490/11-16

Mr Andy Allen
Ulster Unionist Party
East Belfast

Tabled Date: 11/03/2016
Answered On Date: 21/03/2016
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister for Social Development , given the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that social housing rents would be reduced by one per cent for each of the next four years, whether he has given any consideration to implementing the same reductions locally.

I have given this issue my consideration and rejected the possibility of rent reductions for NIHE tenants. Social rents must be affordable for tenants, but if they are too low they will make social housing itself unsustainable. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s rents have been at much lower levels than local authority rents in England for some time. Their current level is lower than the level comparable English rents will reach even after reductions over the next four years.
Increases are needed to close this gap and sustain the stock of the NIHE. My Department recently released survey results that show that £1.5bn of investment is needed in the NIHE stock in the 5 years from 2015/16. Rental levels must help support that investment requirement.
Following the policy decision to cut social rents in England, HM Treasury indicated that the devolved administrations would be expected to identify proportionate savings in Housing Benefit. In light of this, I decided to freeze Northern Ireland Housing Executive rents for 2016/17 and recommended that Housing Associations should also apply a rent freeze. I am keenly aware of the impact of this decision for the Housing Executive and its maintenance programme and officials will continue to engage with HM Treasury on this matter as a priority.