Effective co-operation between government departments, agencies, housing associations and the private sector can ensure that the housing market fully meets the needs of the Northern Ireland population in future - that was the message today at the first meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly All-Party Group on Housing.
The meeting heard from representatives from housing associations, the private sector and the Department of Social Development. Cameron Watt, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) outlined the current challenges facing the housing association sector. John Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) provided an overview of the private sector and its role in the housing market and Stephen Martin from the Department of Social Development gave a rundown of current housing policy.
The All Party Group is charged by Colum Eastwood MLA with secretariat support provided by Helm Housing Association. Speaking before the meeting, he said: Providing first-class housing in safe and comfortable neighbourhoods has to be a priority for any government. The new All Party Group on Housing is the first forum where public representatives, policy makers and those working in the housing sector can engage constructively on the issues facing the sector.
Today is the first in a series of meetings which aim to provide an overview of the housing sector, both public and private, across Northern Ireland and I am pleased that representatives from NIFHA, DSD and CEF are here, he added.
Speaking at the meeting, Cameron Watt, Chief Executive of NIFHA, said: The social housing sector is working hard to deliver a quality service for our tenants and add value to the communities. This has seen government funding being matched to ensure that even more new housing has been successfully delivered in recent years. However, we cannot be complacent about the needs of the community, particularly that the increasing number of people in housing stress is addressed by the sector. That is why our members are re-doubling their efforts to build more homes for people in need.
John Armstrong, Managing Director of the Construction Employers Federation, said: In Northern Ireland we should be building some 11,000 houses per annum. It is vital we get the right balance between private and social housing to help us address housing need correctly.
Michael McDonnell, CEO of Helm Housing Association added: The NI Assembly All Party Group on Housing allows all involved in the provision of housing to engage in meaningful dialogue with concrete outcomes. As well as meetings this year, we plan to publish findings on our work including recommendations which will result in improved housing outcomes for all living in Northern Ireland.
The next meeting of the NI Assembly All Party Group on Housing is Tuesday 24th February at 1pm.