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Convergent, divergent or just ‘ours’? Moving towards housing policy ownership in Northern Ireland. Jenny Muir Housing Studies Association conference York 14 th - 16 th April 2010. Contents. Background: ‘Peace’ & the economic climate = public spending cuts, smaller state

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Convergent, divergent or just ‘ours’? Moving towards housing policy ownership in Northern Ireland


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    1. Convergent, divergent or just ‘ours’? Moving towards housing policy ownership in Northern Ireland Jenny Muir Housing Studies Association conference York 14th - 16th April 2010

    2. Contents • Background: • ‘Peace’ & the economic climate = public spending cuts, smaller state • Northern Ireland and UK devolution: • ‘inextricably bound up with the peace process’ • Policy convergence or divergence under UK devolution: • Potentially relevant factors; policy ownership as an alternative approach • Housing policy developments since 1999: • Legislation, inquiries, policies and strategies • Current housing issues: • Housing governance • Tenure restructuring • Achieving greater efficiency in social housing provision • Housing’s contribution to a shared future • Conclusions

    3. Background • Devolution in NI: Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement 1998, St Andrew’s Agreement 2006, Agreement at Hillsborough Castle 2010 • ‘Peace’ : • Cuts potential: additional cost of providing security and duplicated services estimated as up to £1.5bn in 2004/05 - £24m for housing • Policy impact: equality emphasis, potential for shared services • But sectarian conflict hasn’t gone away • The economy: • Unemployment up from 4.1% mid-2008 to 6.3% end of 2009 • UK increase 5.4% to 7.8% in same period and Irish Republic now 13.3% • Highest level of economic inactivity in the UK • Whoever wins the election, there will be public sector spending cuts • NI economy more dependent on public sector than rest of UK • ‘Peace’ & the economic climate = public spending cuts, smaller state

    4. Northern Ireland and UK devolution • NI process fraught and Assembly was suspended between 2002 and 2007 – but the administrative structures remained: ‘direct rule’ • Unique aspects of devolution in NI are: • NI had legislative devolution before: 1922 – 1972 and attempts to restart it in 1973, 1974 and 1982. Issues were power-sharing and role of Irish Government • It is ‘inextricably bound up with the peace process’ (House of Commons Justice Committee, 2009: 10): GFA affirms commitment to ‘exclusively democratic and peaceful means’ • Territorial issue being managed is which country to be part of rather than independence • The GFA was voted on in another country (Irish Republic) as well as in NI • The NI Executive consists of a mandatory cross-community coalition and Assembly decisions require cross-community support

    5. Policy convergence or divergence under devolution – contributory factors

    6. Policy convergence or divergence – or policy ownership? • Convergence or divergence hotly debated • Appears more common in health and education (Birrell, 2009) • Influence of England now waning? • Very little divergence in housing policy except in Scotland • NI previous work has noted differences as: • No LSVT - but provision exists, just not used • Responses to community divisions e.g. allocations policy, community participation • Policy ownership as an alternative? ‘The appearance of distinctiveness may be achieved by assuming ownership of public policies, and branding them as policies designed to respond to and reflect the needs and priorities of the nation or region in question’ (McEwan, 2005: 539).

    7. Housing policy developments since 1999 (1) • Legislation: • Housing Support Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 • Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 • Anti-social Behaviour (NI) Order 2004 • Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 • Housing (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2006 • Housing (Amendment) Bill (Northern Ireland) 2009, not yet law • Draft Regeneration and Housing Bill 2010 (consultation document) • Inquiries: • 2001-02: NI Assembly Social Development Committee • 2004: Housing of Commons NI Affairs Committee (social housing) • 2006-07: Semple Inquiry into affordable housing • 2009-10: Commission on the Future for Housing in Northern Ireland (CIH)

    8. Housing policy developments since 1999 (2) • Policy and strategy: • 3 out of 4 inquiries have called for a comprehensive NI housing strategy • There are many strategies for specific areas e.g. Supporting People, empty homes, homelessness, procurement, private rented sector. • Authorship of strategy documents moving from NIHE to DSD • Programme for Government commitments: • 2002 – 2005: commitment to ‘decent, affordable housing’ and housing the homeless; housing section; links with other policies e.g. health, poverty • 2008 – 2011: Public Service Agreement 12: • To promote decent, energy efficient, affordable housing and regenerate disadvantaged areas and towns and city centres, and support community development to create environments which enhance quality of life and contribute to well-being’ (NI Executive, 2008: 25) • Plus spending commitment of £925m for social and affordable housing, now unlikely to be met

    9. Housing policy developments since 1999 (3) • The New Housing Agenda (2008) - list of Ministerial priorities including: • At least 5,250 new units of social housing by 2011 (will be met) • Introduction of developer contributions to social and affordable housing • Changes to co-ownership and House Sales schemes • Further development of ‘mixed community’ housing • A new Procurement Strategy to make 10% savings on construction costs • Code for Sustainable Housing, help with fuel poverty & energy efficiency • Nothing on special needs, homelessness, planning issues • Very little housing market analysis or strategic context • 30 references: 9 are press releases, 6 refer to Assembly business • A new phase in NI housing policy? – from technocratic domination to political leadership • Most not unique to NI – but policy ownership?

    10. Current housing issues (1): Housing governance • Issues are co-ordination and accountability: • Housing Executive still manages around 90,000 homes – also housing need assessment, new build programme, some private sector, housing advice, Supporting People • New build carried out by housing associations • Housing Executive no longer the ‘regional strategic housing authority’ • Department for Social Development assuming more of the strategic role • Link with planning departments weak (Environment & Regional Dev.) • Housing largely unaffected by the Review of Public Administration but planning and regeneration will go to the new councils • Commission for the Future of Housing in NI has recommended a (temporary) Communities Unit • ‘Democratic deficit’ in housing governance remains • Regulation uneven between HAs and Housing Executive • More scope to involve tenants in governance

    11. Current housing issues (2): Tenure restructuring • Tenure changes similar to rest of UK: owner occupation up slightly (flattening out?); social housing down; private rented sector up • Still 75% of social housing managed by the Housing Executive – no stock transfer of any size, but legal provision exists • Housing waiting list increasing: 40,000 of which just over half in ‘housing stress’; 9,200 homeless acceptances, a slight fall • NIHE housing need calculation 2,500 new units p.a. • Housing market volatility: prices fell 32% 2005-06; 18% 2006-07; 30% 2007-08 – more than elsewhere in UK • Decline in transactions, mortgage approvals and new build, NAMA • Policy response is: • Continue to promote home ownership including co-ownership • Commitment to social housing targets (HA new build) • Better regulation of private rented sector (increase in vulnerable tenants)

    12. Current housing issues (3): Greater efficiency in social housing provision • New procurement strategy, first year in operation: • Four procurement groups: 5–11 HAs in each • Mandatory for all NI HAs wanting funding from the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) – currently 29 • Aim is to cut costs by 10% - groups will contract with ‘supply teams’ e.g. architects, surveyors, building contractors – for 4 years • HAs continue to manage their own projects but do not select their contractors themselves – contract for services from the supply teams • Procurement groups prioritise bids from their members and send them to the Housing Executive to be assessed • Eventually, procurement groups may have a wider purchasing function • Has co-incided with a number of regulation issues with HAs – mergers and group structures under discussion • Code for Sustainable Homes: Level 3 mandatory, pilot projects at Level 4 and Level 5 design competition in progress

    13. Current housing issues (4): Contribution to a shared future • NI’s social housing remains largely segregated • NI’s Shared Future policy introduced in 2005, shelved in 2007, replacement by Cohesion, Sharing and Integration imminent, part of negotiation s in devolving policing and justice • Housing initiatives led by the Housing Executive: • 2000: research set up template for shared housing schemes • 2005: Community Cohesion strategy: flags & emblems; shared housing; race relations; interface areas; areas in transition • Shared housing (1): Shared Future Housing Programme (new schemes – requires involvement of housing associations) • Shared housing (2): Shared Neighbourhood Programme (existing NIHE) • Both involve screening for suitability; community consultation; signing of Charter (good neighbour agreement) • High degree of policy ownership by Minister

    14. Conclusions (1)

    15. Conclusions (2)

    16. Conclusions (3) ‘Peace’ and the economic situation both point to cuts and a smaller state NI devolution has been inextricably linked to the peace process – and has been more difficult than in Scotland and Wales The unique constitutional aspects of NI devolution have not had any effect on housing policy, which remains highly convergent with England The most important factors contributing to convergence appear to be policy networks (both local and UK) and the mechanics of devolution, especially funding Technocratic domination of housing policy and implementation being challenged by the New Housing Agenda Policy ownership by the Minister is increasing – start of a new era?