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 Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin 8:45 pm, 30th June 2020

I appreciate every contribution that has been made. This process, albeit under accelerated passage, has been very inclusive. Even the debates that we had about our differences were done mostly in a measured way, and I do share some of the concerns.

When Members who have spoken, and even those who have not, read Hansard, I hope they will accept that, since the last debate, I tried to get answers to some of the queries that were raised then. I also tried to address some of the concerns that Mark Durkan raised through his amendments. I agree that, to proceed, we need the Housing Executive's house sales scheme. The difficulty with this is that they needed accelerated passage to meet the deadline. Other than that, I assume that this would have been taken forward just like any other legislation. Indeed, the less accelerated passage we use the better because, as MLAs and people who are looking at legislation, it should be the last resort rather than the first option. That has been accepted.

Not to rehearse all of the comments already made, but just under 7,500 homes over five years is quite disgraceful. That is on all of our watches and is quite disgraceful, given that there are 40,000 people on the housing waiting list and at least 26,000 in housing stress. That is a responsibility that we all have to step up to. Gone are the days when I had difficulties — I admit — around co-ownership because I felt that there should have been more options; I still feel that there needs to be more options. However, I know, from my own family and constituents — and we all get housing queries from constituents — that some families are paying £685 a month in rent to the private rented sector and some are paying £328 a month for a co-ownership mortgage. We talk about poverty, for someone who is on family or working tax credit, trying to pay their rent and not getting a house for years in north Belfast, west Belfast, Derry or right across. We all have really big pressures.

We need to be far more ambitious. As I said today, for me, it is the floor rather than the ceiling. I want to look at ways in which we can deliver more social housing. I want to look at surplus land and work with colleagues in the Executive to ensure that the infrastructure is there. I also want to look at opportunities for people to buy into different options to try to get the housing waiting list reduced.

This Bill, in its Final Stage, will mean that we will meet the commitment that most of us signed up to in New Decade, New Approach, because we could not have enabled the Co-ownership scheme to thrive without the financial transactions capital that it needed. Certainly, the housing associations and, indeed, more so, the Department, would face penalties of £3 million a month if this Bill does not go through. So, once again, I thank all the officials and everyone who brought this Bill to this stage for their contributions, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That the Housing (Amendment) Bill [NIA Bill 06/17-22] do now pass.