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Housing: Low Incomes

Volume 459: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to provide affordable housing in Northern Ireland. (135036)

Government are dealing with the issue of affordable housing principally through the social housing development programme, the co-ownership shared equity scheme, the house sales scheme for social tenants and the housing benefit system.

The social housing development programme last year provided an additional 1,625 new homes, funded by Government grant of some £132 million supplemented by housing association private borrowing.

The co-ownership shared equity scheme has assisted almost 19,000 households into home ownership since 1978; with more than half a billion pounds of public and private funds invested. Recent changes, such as increasing the property value limits and reducing the rental charge on the shared equity portion of the property, have made the scheme more accessible for those on low incomes.

The right to buy scheme, offering social houses for sale to tenants at a discount, has facilitated some 120,000 tenants into home ownership.

Last year, over £386 million was paid to those in receipt of housing benefit. Over 70,000 of recipients were in social housing and almost 62,000 were in private housing.

In April 2007, I received Sir John Semple's review into affordable housing. This report made a series of practical suggestions across a range of policy areas. These proposals are now being considered.