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Ulster Students Host Conference On Local Housing Reform

The impact of Northern Ireland’s proposed social housing reform will be the focus of a conference organised by students from the University of Ulster.

Expert speakers will discuss how the implementation of the Welfare Reform Bill and the government’s new housing strategy could affect both housing professionals and tenants.

The conference entitled ‘A New Direction for Housing: Strategy and Welfare’ takes place next week and has been organised by Final Year Housing Management Students at Ulster.

Chair of the Steering Group, Laura Dillon, said the event would provide an open forum for discussion among key stakeholders with an interest in rental housing.

“Welfare reform is set to have a profound impact on housing professionals and tenants, causing great concern,” she explained

“It is estimated that almost two-thirds of Northern Ireland’s housing benefit claimants of working age in the social sector will be hit by the bedroom tax.

“And it’s thought that around 32,000 households will be affected, of which around 26,000 are Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) tenants and around 6,000 are housing association tenants.

“The implementation of the Welfare Reform Bill and the Department for Social Development’s final housing strategy will have major ramifications for the whole housing system in Northern Ireland.

“We are vociferously opposed to the bedroom tax which penalises social housing tenants with a spare room – we believe that the bedroom tax should only apply to those under occupying by two bedrooms or more.

“A new organisational settlement for housing will create many opportunities for new dynamic ways of working – and we need to ensure that housing professionals are ready and equipped to embrace this new direction for strategy and welfare that lies ahead.”

The conference will focus on a number of wide-ranging, housing related themes including:

Defining future responsibility for policy and strategy across the sector;

Analysing how the strategic and landlord functions of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive can be separated;

Examining the potential and important role of the housing association sector;

Evaluating the most appropriate approach to governance and regulation;

Debating policy and practical solutions for mitigating the impact of welfare reform.

It will of interest to housing professionals; housing association board members; local government representatives; policy makers; financial institutions and voluntary and community sector organisations.

Professor Paddy Gray, Professor of Housing at Ulster said it was important for the students to explore how the proposed changes will impact on the future of local housing.

“The housing legacy that we are left with today is one of tenure polarisation, growing inequality, worsening housing market affordability and a deepening housing crisis exacerbated by austerity measures and welfare cuts,” he explained.

“I’m very proud of the way our housing students have taken this on board to bring the key leaders together to focus on how we can improve the well being of people in Northern Ireland and provide direction for the future.”

The conference with be held on the morning of Thursday May 2 at Helm House, Lisburn Road, Belfast. For more information or to book a place contact Peter Shanks (Lecturer in Housing Studies) by email at p.shanks1@ulster.ac.uk or by phone on 028 90368225.

Caption: Professor Paddy Gray, Professor of Housing at the University of Ulster


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