Ritchie Says SDLP Ministers Have Delivered On Housing

“This is a tremendous performance given the financial challenges. I remember saying as Housing Minister two years ago that we would introduce new thinking into the delivery of social housing starts so that, despite the bad start, we would deliver on the three year target. This has now been done,” added Ms Ritchie. “The housing numbers achieved this year is the highest for 14 years and the highest ever by Housing Associations. The amount of private sector finance introduced to social housing is also an all time record high. Great credit is due to Minister Alex Attwood and the rest of the housing family who have worked very hard to achieve this result. [caption id="attachment_15055" align="alignleft" width="221" caption="South Down MP Margaret Ritchie speaks out on the SDLP record on housing. "][/caption] “This outcome in housing shows that when SDLP ideas are combined with a determination to succeed, then anything is possible. Just think how the performance of the Executive would improve if there were more SDLP ministers around the table.” The DSD has just announced the new social housing starts figures for year ending 2010/11. – The figure of 2418 is the highest achieved in Northern Ireland for fourteen years. – It is by far the highest outturn ever achieved by the Housing Association movement – It beats the new starts target for 2010/11 by some 21% – It builds on last year’s figure of 1838, which itself was the highest for many years. Beating the 3 year target When the Budget was set in late 2007 with what turned out to be very optimistic assumptions of significant capital receipts, a target for 5250 new social housing starts was set for the period of the next three years. Then in year ONE (2008/09) due to the economic downturn, capital receipts plummeted as the sale of Housing Executive properties dried up and receipts from land sales fell away. The result was that in year one, capital receipts came up almost £80 million short of the budgeted figure and only 1138 starts were achieved against a target of 1500. Margaret Ritchie , as a former DSD Minister, said she was determined that not only would the target of 1750 starts for year TWO (2009/10) be met, but also that some of the lost ground in year ONE should be recovered. In addition there would be a real attempt to beat the target of 2000 starts in year THREE (2010/11) – so that overall, notwithstanding the £200million DSD budget shortfall, the 3-year target of 5250 starts would be met. She said, “Now thanks to the efforts of two SDLP Housing Ministers this has now been achieved. (5392 is the 3-year total) “Credit is due to the Housing Executive and to the Housing Associations – but make no mistake this achievement was driven politically by two determined Ministers”. Record Housing Starts with a £200million budget shortfall? How? “Given the collapse in receipts, Alex Attwood and I could have abandoned the new build targets and simply blamed it on not having enough money. Other Ministers have adopted this approach. “But we didn’t go for the easy option. Instead ideas were developed allowing  more to be delivered with less.” These  ideas included: – Gearing up the DSD Housing Division to deliver. More resources were put into closer programme management liaison with the Housing Executive and the Housing Associations. – Instead of buying more building land, NIHE and HA’s were instructed to build a much higher proportion of houses on land already in NIHE/DSD or Public ownership. This had the added impact of ensuring that more of the money went into wage packets in the construction sector rather than payments to vendors of land. – Reducing DSD grant per unit so that HA’s were encouraged to make a bigger contribution from their own resources and from borrowing. – Bringing more and more very competitively-priced private sector finance into social housing investment. This included the lowest-cost finance available anywhere – from the European Investment Bank (EIB) – Organising the Housing Associations into Procurement Groups so that they could capture greater economies of scale and the benefits of more efficient framework contracts eg. for professional services. – Removing the least capable HAs from the Social Housing Development Programme completely. – Bringing comparatively less expensive refurbished ex-military housing back into the social housing stock. Scrapping out-of-date and inefficient ‘design and build’ process for procurement.]]>