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Social Housing: Financial Transactions Capital

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:45 pm, 13th October 2015

1. Mr Ramsey asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline any discussions she has had with the Minister for Social Development regarding planned social housing to be built using financial transactions capital. (AQO 8867/11-16)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I have had no discussions with the Minister for Social Development regarding the use of financial transactions capital (FTC) for planned social housing. However, I am aware that there are a number of affordable housing projects exploring options to utilise financial transactions capital.

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party

There is a major crisis in social housing across Northern Ireland, and every Member would agree with me that we need many more housing developments of a social nature. Will the Minister ensure that she has that conversation with the Minister for Social Development to see how the Department of Finance could help to progress capital moneys to housing associations?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

The current funding model for social housing utilises an element of public grant funding to try to lever in additional private finance. Even during the very recent housing turmoil, there was no problem in accessing private finance for social housing. If the social housing programme were to be fully funded through financial transactions capital, the rent that would be required to service the debt in relation to FTC would make it unaffordable for most social housing tenants. Now, if there are new ideas on using FTC for social housing, I will, of course, look at them. As I said in my substantive answer, we have been able to work with developers who are looking at affordable homes and to help them to build new homes. We have done that through a range of measures, including Get Britain Building, affordable home loans and the Empty Homes scheme. We have used FTC in that context, but, if there are new, innovative ways to use it for social housing, I stand ready to look at those as well.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

Can the Minister provide details of any schemes under the control of her Department where financial transactions capital funding has been used in the past two years?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

As I have just indicated, we have used FTC funding in a number of affordable home pilots. In 2012-13, we allocated nearly £12 million to Get Britain Building. In 2013-14, we granted £7·2 million to Get Britain Building, £5 million to affordable home loans and £3·7 million to the Empty Homes scheme. There was also money passed to affordable home loans and Empty Homes schemes in 2014-15. In 2015-16, £25 million has been granted to Northern Ireland Co-Ownership, and that has freed up £15 million of conventional capital, allowing it to be reallocated. We think that that is a good use of the financial transactions capital that we have access to.