Housing (Amendment) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:45 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP 8:45 pm, 30th June 2020

Mr Temporary Speaker, I assure you that I will exercise restraint and will not speak for too long. I am sure that Members across the Chamber will welcome that.

I thank the Minister for setting out to the House and providing various updates to it on the queries that were raised at Consideration Stage. Indeed, I thank the Minister for the haste in which the Department came forward to the Committee to address the oversight around the consultation report. I agree with the Deputy Chair and do not believe that it would have had any bearing on the decision process that we have undertaken in the House.

I welcome the passage of the Bill, as all Members across the House do. It is a very welcome development. It is a Bill that has been in the making for nearly four years. Housing associations will all, of course, also welcome the Bill and the much-required clarity and certainty that it will bring for them. I also welcome, as my Committee colleague across the way did, the press release from the Minister setting out her housing programme, which we received today. Indeed, it is referred to as an ambitious housing programme, and I am sure that many Members will agree with the Member across the way who said that, in previous years, housing programmes have been less than ambitious. It is widely recognised that we have not been building enough houses, year-on-year, to meet the demand.

There has been much talk in the House today in various other debates, which I will not stray into, about our Assembly staff, and rightly so. Our Assembly staff and, indeed, my own staff are invaluable to me. A significant area of importance, although it is not the only one, in my constituency office is housing. I have heard many Members speak on that area, and I have spoken to other Members across the House about the many representations and queries that they receive from constituents in relation to housing. Those are not just about repairs to Housing Executive and housing association properties but are predominantly about the lack of social housing.

We in this House really do need to be ambitious. We need to back our words up with actions, and we need to start delivering. I welcome the Minister's announcement of the £10 million investment in the co-ownership scheme, and that is another scheme to enable, help and support individuals into affordable housing. I am sure that the Minister will be looking at other ways to ensure that she can maximise the uptake of financial transactions capital. Indeed, my party leader has pointed out today that the Finance Minister has indicated that FTC funding may be available. I hope to see the Communities Minister lobbying the Finance Minister to get that funding and invest it into our housing stock. I promised to be short, so I will leave it there.