Housing: Barnett Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:00 pm, 24th January 2017

4. Mr McNulty asked the Minister for Communities for his assessment on whether the £176·4 million in Barnett consequentials received from Westminster's home building fund should be ring-fenced for social housing. (AQO 963/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

I am acutely aware of the issues in relation to housing need and high demand for social housing in Northern Ireland. That is why, in the Programme for Government, I am committing to building 9,600 new social homes here by 2021. As the Member may know, new social housing is delivered with substantial government grants to housing associations. In the current financial year, my Department has made £106 million of capital funding available to deliver a target of 1,600 new social homes. My officials will continue to liaise with the Department of Finance to secure the necessary capital funding for the rest of the Programme for Government period through the normal budgetary process. The home building fund to which this funding has been allocated in England does not directly apply in Northern Ireland. The UK Government's home building fund is loan funding for private sector organisations to build homes for rent or sale. Barnett consequentials are not ring-fenced when they are made available to Northern Ireland. The Executive are responsible for deciding how best to allocate the available capital budget, including any additional funding through Barnett consequentials that are based on local needs and priorities.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. Has he made a commitment to use the funds to build over and above the 9,600 houses that he has agreed to build in this mandate?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Where Barnett consequentials flow, as I have indicated, it will be for the Executive to decide how the money should be spent. In the past, where there have been Barnett consequentials as a result of housing changes in England that the Executive have got money from, that money has been used to go into housing. Ultimately, however, it is at the discretion of the Executive — whoever makes up an Executive after the election — to decide how Barnett consequential moneys are spent.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP

Has the Department previously received money for housing through the Barnett consequentials, and, if so, how has the money been allocated?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Some examples of Barnett consequentials derived from Get Britain Building and other housing-related funding announcements in GB. That money has been allocated to support housing associations to provide new, affordable homes through the co-ownership scheme and two new pilot schemes: the affordable home loans fund pilot and the rent-to-own scheme. Collectively, the schemes are targeted at providing nearly 3,500 additional affordable homes across Northern Ireland.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

Minister, what other funds have you explored to support social housing in Northern Ireland, in addition to potential Barnett consequentials? During your time as Minister, what efforts have you made to secure funds either for the Housing Executive by allowing it to go to the market and borrow or by looking to housing associations to develop schemes like living over the shop (LOTS)?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

The LOTS scheme, for example, was successful and could have been brought back in, and I commissioned work in the Department to look at a revised LOTS-type scheme that we could have brought in. Since I have been in office, we have announced significant investment from the European Investment Bank and the Bank of Ireland. Again, there has been a clear demonstration that, under my tenure, ambitious goals have been set for new social homes to be built, evidenced in the Programme for Government — 9,600. This year, moneys are being spent and houses are being built, and, under my watch, I have been pushing very hard at that.