Social housing

This page contains information on specially commissioned professional and academic reports into various aspects of social housing policy and practice.

Standards and Costs of Developing Social Housing in Northern Ireland’

On behalf of the Department for Communities, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive commissioned Three Dragons with Ulster University to identify efficiencies in social rented housing delivery that will allow costs to be reduced while maintaining quality. The research objectives were to:

  • Review standards of new build general needs social housing in Northern Ireland in comparison with new private housing in Northern Ireland and new social rented housing in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland;

  • Estimate the additional cost resulting from key differences in design, specification and standards;

  • Consider whether the higher design standards provide value for money and recommend potential areas for improved value for money;

  • Provide comment and analysis of other development issues which may also affect the cost of developing new social housing in Northern Ireland; and

  • Explore, where research is available, wider economic benefits (i.e. savings to public purse) and non-monetary benefits.

The study reviewed the Development Guide standards; analysed social housing build cost data; reviewed equivalent standards in operation elsewhere in Great Britain and in the Republic of Ireland; undertook interviews with housing associations and cost consultants active in Northern Ireland; consulted contractors/developers that develop both market and social rented housing and interviewed a sample of cost consultants with experience of social rented and speculative residential developments. The research focussed on the prescribed specifications,  dwelling sizes, Lifetime Homes, Secured by Design and energy efficiency.

In reviewing the costs of meeting the Development Guide standards for social rented housing it is important to note that the focus of this study is on the initial capital costs rather than the lifecycle of the buildings or the wider impact on the internal and external environment and its role in place-shaping. However, where the research identified points about these issues, mention is made of them.

New Build Social Housing Satisfaction Survey

The Housing Executive commissioned research of social housing tenants allocated new build accommodation completed during 2017/18.

This research assessed tenant satisfaction with aspects of their new build accommodation; provided a profile of tenants and their housing needs; and assessed whether the new build accommodation meets tenants needs; The impact of Covid-19 on social housing design was also considered.

Fundamental Review of Allocations – Modelling and Analysis of Waiting List Data (published April 2021)

In October 2017, as part of its Fundamental Review of Allocations, the Department for Communities (DfC) issued a consultation paper setting out 20 proposals for change. This report presents the results of modelling and analysis of Waiting List data with respect to four of the proposals, as follows: 

  • Proposal 7 - The removal of intimidation points from the Housing Selection Scheme;
  • Proposal 8 – Points should reflect current circumstances for all applicants (the removal of the ‘No Detriment’ policy for Full Duty Applicants);
  • Proposal 9 - Removal of interim accommodation points from the Housing Selection Scheme; 
  • Proposal 10 - The Selection Scheme should place applicants into bands based on similar levels of need to meet longstanding housing need more effectively.  

Waiting List data was modelled to assess the potential impact of the four proposals both separately and in combination, with particular regard to the potential cumulative impact of Proposals 7, 8 and 9 with Proposal 10. The key aim of the research was to inform the direction and approach to any implementation of these proposals. 

The analysis was commissioned by the Housing Executive in June 2019 and was carried out by Economic Research and Evaluation. Since the research was commissioned, the Department for Communities published a Consultation Outcome Report (December 2020). The Outcome Report set out likely timescales for implementation, in three Phases. As set out in the Outcome Report, the proposals to remove intimidation points (Proposal 7) and interim accommodation points (Proposal 9) will not proceed as per the 2017 consultation and, instead, options will be explored for alternative proposals. The Department has advised that Proposals 8 and 10 will be implemented as per the 2017 Consultation, with Proposal 8, in Phase 2 and Proposal 10 in Phase 3.

Improving Rent Arrears Collection 

Rent arrears owed to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive totalled £12.2 million in 2017/18 and the organisation devotes substantial time and resources each year to collecting arrears and managing tenants who accumulate them. The process of managing long term arrears through to eviction is costly and difficult; the Housing Executive would prefer to help households sustain their tenancies rather than be forced to seek evictions.

The Housing Executive worked with the Department of Finance’s Innovation Lab (iLab) on a trial to test the efficacy of the standard ‘LT1A’ arrears letter against sending no letter out. The iLab then conducted a second trial sending an improved arrears letter, sending a text, sending the letter and a text or sending nothing to tenants with arrears.

The Housing Executive Research Unit suggested carrying out qualitative research to enrich understanding of the results of the second trial and to inform development of future trials. The Housing Executive Research Unit carried out 19 qualitative interviews in August and September 2019. This project was led by the iLab and the qualitative findings from this research inform a broader project. The link to the full report will be made available here when it is published shortly by the iLab.

House Sales Scheme: Outcomes and Experiences 1979-2019

The research summarised in this report was undertaken to provide updated evidence on some of the impacts and outcomes of the Housing Executive’s House Sales Scheme over a period of almost four decades. As well as providing an overview of the wider context, recent policy developments and other research evidence on House Sales/Right to Buy schemes, this report summarises the findings of a survey conducted by Perceptive Insight Market Research Ltd for the Housing Executive among a sample of residents living in properties across Northern Ireland that had been sold to tenants during the life of the Housing Executive’s House Sales Scheme up to November 2018.

Designing for Life: new social housing in Northern Ireland post-occupancy survey (2018)

In 2018 the Housing Executive, in partnership with the Department for Communities (DFC) commissioned Perceptive Insight Market Research to undertake a post occupancy survey of housing association (HA) tenants to obtain feedback on the quality and design of new homes funded through the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP) that were completed between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2016.

A review of the Affordability of Social Rents in Northern Ireland (2017)

  • This study was commissioned in 2016 by the Housing Executive on behalf of the Department for Communities to inform the Social Housing Reform Programme.

  • It considered the possible impacts of a gradual rise in Housing Executive rents in the context of a more transparent and equitable system of rents for social tenants, which would also help sustain the financial viability of social landlords.

  • It should be noted that the analysis was completed before the UK Government’s decision in October 2017 that Local Housing Allowance rates would not be applied to social and supported housing from April 2019, as had previously been proposed.

Tenant Involvement in Governance: Models and Practices (2017)

The Housing Executive commissioned the University of Birmingham to review approaches to tenant involvement in the governance of social housing organisations in Northern Ireland and explore the relevance of international models and practices for the region.  

The research involved interviews, an evidence review, case studies, and a number of consultation workshops, and this comprehensive final report details the findings of each stage of the project.

The Business Benefits of the Housing Executive’s Community Involvement Activities (2017)

The Housing Executive commissioned the University of Westminster to carry out research on the business benefits to the organisation of community involvement activity, with particular reference to issues such as tenant satisfaction levels, expenditure, service delivery and value for money.

The findings of this mixed qualitative and quantitative study showed that investment in community involvement had benefitted the Housing Executive by helping the organisation to identify needs, improve services, reduce costs and develop communities.

Assessment of the need for furniture provision for new Housing Executive tenants (March 2016)

This research, carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University and the Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland (CHNI), assessed the need for the provision of furniture as a means of assisting new tenants to sustain tenancies.

Funding Mechanisms for New Social Housing in Northern Ireland: A UK-wide Comparative Study (November 2015)

This research was undertaken to provide a comparative understanding of how rates of Government funding for the provision of new social or affordable housing are set across the United Kingdom and how applicable these are in the context of Northern Ireland.

Third Sector Housing Partnerships in Northern Ireland (June 2013)

This report was the result of a three-year collaboration between the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham, the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast and the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at University of Ulster.

The research used case studies of two social housing Procurement Groups and two Supporting People partnerships (community based schemes with mental health and homeless service users) to look at partnership structures, drivers and barriers, processes, impacts and learning from partnership working.

Review of Social Rent Setting in Northern Ireland (February 2013)

This report, produced by a team from Newhaven Research, the University of Glasgow, University of York and University College Dublin, explores the pattern of rents in the social housing sector in Northern Ireland and considers the scope for the development and implementation of a harmonised rent-setting regime.  

The study, which was commissioned by the Housing Executive on behalf of the Department for Social Development, aimed to inform policy development by updating a project carried out in 2007.

Supporting People