- What is a Housing Association?
- How to apply for an association home
- Challenges facing Housing Associations
- Achievments by Housing Associations
- Complaints about Registered Housing Associations
- The Modern Social Housing Movement
- The Team at NIFHA
What is a Housing Association?
A housing association is a voluntary organisation dedicated to helping people obtain decent, affordable accommodation which meets their needs.
How is a Housing Association formed?
A group of people come together with the shared aim of providing good quality, low cost houses for rent and/or for sale.
This group elects a committee of volunteers and, when it can afford to do so, the association employs suitable staff to manage the housing. Using money from public, commercial and / or charitable sources the housing associations plan and develop new or improved homes.
As there is a shortage of decent affordable social housing in NI, housing associations here let to people in the greatest need. Being not-for-profit organisations, any financial surplus made by associations is ploughed back into maintaining their existing homes or providing more accommodation. Many housing associations have tenants on their committees.
The most up-to-date infomation on the social housing development programme may be viewed on the Housing Executive's website. Click development programme to take you to the page.
What do Housing Associations have in common?
Housing associations in Northern Ireland take many forms but they all share the following distinguishing characteristics:
- they have formal constitutions
- housing is their sole purpose or one of their principal purposes
- financial surpluses are not distributed to shareholders but are ploughed back to help the associations achieve their objectives
- the people who carry ultimate responsibility for each association (the members of its Board or Committee of Management) do so on an entirely voluntary basis – they receive no payment for their work.
How do Housing Associations benefit their local communities?
As well as providing access to good homes, the Voluntary Housing Movement also benefits the community in the following ways:
- by bringing people together for a positive social purpose the housing association movement is contributing to self-help and community cohesion
- to achieve their aims while remaining solvent housing associations must be run in a business-like manner. They are important social enterprises - seeking development opportunities, managing risk and making surpluses for community benefit, not individual profit
- since they are independent of government and not driven by the demands of profit-seeking shareholders, housing associations can sometimes offer more flexible or creative solutions than other types of organisation. The mixing of public and private finance is an important example of such flexibility
How are Housing Associations funded?
Assistance from the public purse was very limited until 1976, when the Housing (NI) Order became law. It offered substantial subsidies to housing associations willing to subject themselves to rigorous registration and regulation by the government’s Department for Social Development (DSD).
DSD pays a Housing Association Grant (HAG) of approximately 60% of the estimated capital cost of the project to the housing association. The housing association then has to draw down the remaining capital from a private loan (eg a bank) or reinvestment of own funds. The grant does not have to be paid back, however, the private loan does. By operating this system the government, through housing associations is able to offer a larger volume of social housing to those in need.
The DSD has calculated that since 1991 an additional 6,639 homes have been added to the social housing stock with this private finance.
What relationship do housing associations have with the NI Housing Executive?
One of DSD’s fundamental rules is that it will pay no Housing Association Grant for a project unless the regional housing authority, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), has confirmed the proposed development is needed to satisfy housing stress in the relevant area. There is therefore a deeply rooted working relationship between the NIHE and all of the registered housing associations.
This relationship was strengthened in 1998 and 2000, when the NIHE and the registered housing associations merged their housing waiting lists and implemented a unified system for assessing the housing need of applicants.
The statutory and voluntary providers of social housing have worked even more closely from April 2007, when the NIHE will became responsible for seeing that housing associations successfully deliver the Social Housing Development Programme. The Department for Social Development still retains responsibility for registering and regulating associations.
What is a registered housing association?
The term registered housing association refers to those housing associations operating under DSD regulation. Only they are eligible to receive a Housing Association Grant.
What is a non registered housing association?
NIFHA has 6 housing associations members which are not registered with DSD for the purpose of receiving a Housing Association Grant. They are: Bangor Provident, Glenall, Habitat for Humanity, The Abbeyfield Belfast Society, Threshold and Ulster Provident.