On February 25, 1971, the legislation that established the Northern Ireland Housing Executive became law.
The Housing Executive Act established a strategic housing authority, bringing equality and fairness to the allocation of social housing in Northern Ireland. From October 1971 the Housing Executive began assuming the functions and responsibilities of 61 local authorities, three Development Commissions and the Northern Ireland Housing Trust, and by 1973 owned and managed 155,000 dwellings.
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The Housing Executive was established with comprehensive powers to address long-standing housing problems and dissatisfaction with housing administration. A key purpose therefore for the new organisation was to remove political controversy from housing and to develop a new method of carrying out allocations, assessment and targeting new build. A housing selection scheme was developed by 1974 and has been in place, with minimal adjustments ever since.
Another key task for the Housing Executive was tackling often appalling housing conditions. The first House Condition Survey painted a bleak picture, finding that almost 20% of all homes in Northern Ireland were unfit for occupation. In Belfast, the situation was even worse, with around 25% requiring either demolition or major renovation. Northern Ireland was found to have the worst housing conditions in Britain and amongst the worst in Europe. By the turn of the century unfitness levels had dropped to 2.4% largely down to the investment in new housing and private sector grants.
The Housing Executive carried out these tasks against a background of squatting, fire and bomb damage, growing segregation within housing, and homelessness caused by intimidation. Over its history, it has also taken on new roles such as providing for the homelessness, Housing Benefit, Supporting People and the Home Energy Conservation Authority for Northern Ireland, is playing a critical role in Covid-19 response and recovery, and will increasingly enable Northern Ireland’s work to build a net zero emissions, climate-resilient economy.
The timeline below details the key moments from 1971 which saw the establishment of the Housing Executive. We will be providing more news, information and stories throughout the year as we mark our 50th.
February 1971 - The Housing Executive Act (NI) 1971 became law
April 1971 - The Housing Council meet for the first time
May 1971 - The Housing Executive Board meets for the first time
August 1971 - A two-year schedule for the transfer of functions from the existing 65 housing authorities had been announced
October 1971 - Housing Executive comes into existence and assumes (over phased period) functions and responsibilities of 61 local authorities, three Development Commissions and NI Housing Trust
October 1971 - First formal transfer of functions and staff, following the dissolution of the Housing Trust