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Housing

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many vulnerable people in Northern Ireland live in homes that fall below the decent homes standard. (80951)

The decent homes standard applies to social houses. Government have set a target that all social housing should meet the standard by 2010. While data are not readily available on a household basis, the 2004 Interim House Condition Survey indicated that the overall number of social houses failing to meet the target was 32,000 having reduced from 59,000 in 2001.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what steps he (a) is taking and (b) plans to take to ensure that social housing in Northern Ireland is allocated to Catholics and Protestants equally according to need; (80969)

(2) whether he has plans to address religious differentials in the allocation of public housing.

All allocations by the Housing Executive and registered housing associations are made on the basis of need as determined by the points awarded under the Common Selection Scheme—a scheme that was equality proofed and subject to detailed and widespread consultation.

The Housing Executive is recognised by all sections of the community as being extremely fair in its allocations policies. However, applicants for social housing have a choice of where they wish to live and as a result less than 10 per cent. of social housing is integrated, the majority of people preferring to live in areas where they felt comfortable. The choice of where to live therefore impacts significantly on the number of allocations that can be made in specific areas, as this depends on the availability of social housing, whether through new building or re-letting of existing stock. In some areas demand is greater than supply, while in others, the opposite is true and allocations cannot therefore be made at the same ratio for all areas. This does mean that some people will have to consider other areas in order to be re-housed or have to wait longer before they are re-housed. To make allocations on the basis of religious belief would be illegal under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive formulates plans and programmes for additional new social housing taking account of demography, current and anticipated supply as well as current and projected demand. This effectively targets additional supply on areas with the greatest demand ensuring that assessed need is met.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average length of time spent waiting for public housing was by (a) all those on the waiting list, (b) those of a Catholic community background and (c) those of a Protestant community background in each of the last five years. (80985)

The information is not available in the form requested as complete records prior to June 2002 are not held. However the following tables detail the information that can be provided but are subject to the following caveats:

These data do not include allocations made by housing associations within Northern Ireland nor transfers between Northern Ireland Housing Executive properties.

The religious composition of households is based on ‘self reported’ answers to the question held within the general housing application form. The religion of the applicant is assumed to be the same for all individuals within the household.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Equality Unit is currently unable to readily identify ‘mixed’ religion households although we are aware that a number of households currently described as ‘Roman Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’ would clearly fall into a ‘Mixed’ category.

Table 1: Breakdown of mean average months on the waiting list before allocation by religion of applicants, rehoused by NIHE in Northern Ireland (excluding transfers)

Rehoused by NIHE

1 April 2003 to 31 March 2004

1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005

1 April 2005 to 31 December 2005

Catholic

11.3

13.1

12.8

Other

8.7

10.6

9.6

Protestant

9.1

9.8

9.4

Undisclosed/unknown

11.9

11.2

12.6

Total average months

10.0

11.0

10.8

Table 2: Breakdown of mean average months on the waiting list by religion of applicants, on the waiting list for NIHE housing in Northern Ireland (excluding NIHE and housing association transfers)

NIHE applicants

31 March 2003

31 March 2004

31 March 2005

31 December 2005

Catholic

18.4

19.8

20.7

21.8

Other

18.5

19.5

19.4

19.6

Protestant

21.0

22.4

23.0

24.1

Undisclosed/unknown

58.5

48.0

47.7

53.3

Total average months

22.8

23.5

24.0

25.0

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the budget for discretionary housing payments was in each year since 2001. (81673)

The information is shown in the following table:

Financial years

Discretionary housing payments

2001-02

860,000

2002-03

1,142,000

2003-04

1,142,000

2004-05

1,142,000

2005-06

1,142,000

This is in line with the position in Great Britain where the annual allocation for the scheme has remained unchanged for each financial year since 2002-03.