Housing Rights has responded to the Department for Communities’ consultation on the Proposals for Change in the Private Rented Sector. We welcome many of the proposals, but have suggested further refinement in some areas to strengthen their impact on the ground.
Housing Rights is pleased to respond to the consultation on the Housing Executive’s draft Homelessness Strategy 2017-2022. The response is divided into two sections. The first section (points 1 to 5) focuses on each Objective specifically, and offers comment and suggestions on the actions contained under each Objective. The second section (point 6) considers the outcomes model of the Strategy, and makes several recommendations which aim to maximise the effectiveness of the outcomes model.
Housing Rights notes that several aspects of our response to the previous ‘Review of Rate Liability in the Domestic Rental Sector’ have not been incorporated in the draft proposals. The specific issues raised, which largely relate to rates liability in the rental sector as well as rates recovery, are significant concerns for those who contact our advice service for assistance. It is with disappointment, therefore, that we note that none of these points have been progressed to the proposals contained in the current paper.
The substance of this response therefore contains specific comments on particular proposals contained in the ‘Rates Rethink’ paper, as well as reiterating points made in relation to the previous review of rate liability in the domestic rental sector, which the current proposals are silent on.
Housing Rights offers comments on the draft Programme for Government (PfG) (see particularly paragraphs 3-4) and the Delivery Plan for Indicators 8 and 48 (see particularly paragraphs 5-8) in this consultation response.
In the course of our work, we regularly advise and represent clients who are financially excluded. In our experience, financial exclusion is a significant concern in Northern Ireland, and the patterns of this exclusion are often distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom. Housing Rights is therefore grateful for the opportunity to offer some comments on several topics highlighted in the Select Committee’s call for evidence.
Since 2009, Housing Rights has delivered a Mortgage Debt Advice Service for homeowners in Northern Ireland. In 2015/16, this service dealt with 1,406 cases of mortgage debt. Our solicitors also represent borrowers in Court possession proceedings, including a strategic case involving lenders’ treatment of arrears. Housing Rights is therefore pleased to respond to the Financial Conduct Authority’s consultation on two Handbook changes relating to mortgage borrowers with a payment shortfall.
Housing Rights believes that the current fitness standard applied to housing in Northern Ireland is unsatisfactory and needs replaced in its entirety. It is insufficient to make amendments to the standard which do not directly link housing with health. We believe that an internationally recognised system of best practice currently exists in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and that the introduction of HHSRS would not only benefit householders and tenants across all tenures, but would be of particular benefit in addressing the problems facing some Section 75 groups.
This consultation response explains why Housing Rights believes that the HHSRS is the best option for making real improvements to the quality of housing and will tackle inequalities faced by those persons in Northern Ireland who are most at risk of poor housing.