After calling a surprise snap general election in a bid to increase her party’s majority in the House of Commons and secure a personal mandate, Theresa May now faces the embarrassing business of trying to forge a coalition deal to stay in power.
Last week’s surprise election result means the prime minister is relying on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to build a majority and govern the UK, and so where does the party stand on housing?
Just like the main political parties, the DUP also pledged in its manifesto to build significantly more new homes to help alleviate pressures on housing stock, and as part of wider efforts to create ‘strong communities’, which the party believes is ‘at the heart of a renewed Northern Ireland’.
From pledging to convert Northern Ireland’s giant state landlord into a ‘strategic housing body’ to building 8,000 social and affordable homes, here is the DUP’s plan to create stronger communities:
1/ Increasing investment in new social and affordable housing
The case for investment in social housing is an unarguable one. House building has a hugely positive impact upon the local economy, creating and sustaining jobs not just in the construction sector, but also in professional services and retail. A safe, secure and warm home also produces health and educational benefits. The DUP commits to delivering a further 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020.
2/ A town centre regeneration challenge fund
We will examine the scope for the introduction of a Town Centre Regeneration Challenge Fund which local Councils, Chambers of Trade and others could bid for annually to help them develop a range of projects in their towns or high streets to improve their social andphysical infrastructure. This would complement our commitment to public realm works.
3/ Reintroduce a ‘living over the shop’s’ scheme
The future of our town centres does not depend solely upon enhancing their retail offering. Town centres must become places where people do more than shop. They must become places where people live as well. We will further develop the work already started to reintroduce the previously successful ‘Living Over the Shop’ scheme where landlords were assisted in converting space above shops or offices into residential accommodation.
4/ Community land trusts for affordable homes
Community Land Trusts are a long-term solution to the issue of affordability and assist in community regeneration. Land prices are a key component in driving up property prices. This model places the land in trust and thus removes it from the cost of the home. Future selling prices are linked to a multiple of local incomes which allows the owner to see appreciation of their investment but still maintaining any re-sale price at an accessible level. The DUP will introduce schemes in different property hot spots across Northern Ireland.
5/ Re-birth of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE)
The DUP supports the transformation of the NIHE to a strategic housing body. This should include the transfer of its stock to fully utilise assets to make social housing more self-financing. In addition, the NIHE would receive additional powers to tackle the issue of empty homes.
6/ Energywise and warm homes
The DUP is committed to the full implementation of the Energywise Scheme in Northern Ireland to help improve the energy efficiency of homes and tackle fuel poverty. Furthermore, it will fight for NI to be included into Westminster’s Warm Homes Discount Scheme.
7/ Bulk buying from private sector landlords
The DUP wants to drive up standards in the private landlord sector. It will introduce a bulk-renting scheme from combines of private landlord properties. In return for a guarantee of income the properties entered into the scheme must be equipped and maintained to higher standards.
The growth of on street homelessness is of grave concern. This problem persists even when there is adequate hostel and other provision. This is a result of the complex needs and difficulties of those who find themselves in this situation. The DUP will bring and co-ordinate all public agencies to provide the breadth and depth of support these people need.