21 Mar 2023

Housing organisations want to rise to the challenge of providing more housing to those in need

On the 6 March 2023, I attended my first insight event hosted by Northern Irish Housing Executive (NIHE). The NIHE insight event series discuss various pieces of research and analysis conducted by NIHE, providing independent insight into various issues that affect the Northern Irish housing market.

The agenda showcased important findings on the economic landscape in Northern Ireland. We heard from Richard Ramsey chief economist at Ulster Bank, Dr Michael McCord from Ulster University and Tony Dignan an independent consultation at Economic Research and Evaluation on the various economic challenges that directly affect the housing market.

We began by hearing some good news from Richard Ramsey, “there are 33,000 more people in employment in Northern Ireland than there was pre pandemic” but the trend implies although there are more people working, they are working less hours. Unfortunately, this is where the good news seemed to end. With the cost of living continually rising, the gap between people’s earnings and inflation is huge and Richard noted the lowest earning households may only have a disposable income of £20 per month.

We then heard from Dr Michael McCord who presented on the extremely challenging environment the private rental sector faces in Northern Ireland. With more and more landlords choosing to sell their properties demand has outstripped supply and has in turn pushed the average rental prices up by 9.7 per cent. The harsh reality of this was noted when we learned that 66 homes per day were being lost from the private rental sector.

With me being new to the housing sector, I began to think about the ripple affect these stats will have to those most in need. How will this cascade down to affect those already struggling with their housing needs?

  • More people in housing stress due to the pressures on income vs outgoings
  • People being forced out of the private rental sector due to dwindling supply and costs dramatically rising
  • Number of people presenting as homeless increasing.

The conversations continued with Tony Dignan giving the room an overview on “Strategic Housing Market Analysis: key findings and outputs”, and once again, it was noted the decreasing number of private rentals is adding to the pressure on the social housing sector.

With a bleak picture being presented to a room full of various stakeholders from within the housing sector, Grainia Long (chief executive at Northern Ireland Housing Executive) took to the stage to reinforce NIHE main areas of focus for the coming years:

  • Protect the most vulnerable
  • Forming partnerships with housing organisations
  • Climate change.

And it was at this point, when the floor was open to questions and comments that the most important take away message was heard.

“Housing organisations want to rise to the challenge”. Despite all the concerns and struggles highlighted at the event, those who work in the sector are still ready to stand tall and together to ensure that our housing system provides quality homes in places where people want to live.

And so, at the end of my first event as part of the CIH NI team, I walked away proud to be part of a sector that want to collaborate to ensure that the basic human right to a safe and secure home is the top priority for every organisation in the years ahead.

Written by Julie Steele

Julie is the engagement and external affairs manager for CIH Northern Ireland.