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The Strategy aims to provide a pathway and framework to deliver over 100,000 homes over the next 15 years, setting the direction of travel for transforming housing supply until 2037. Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has stated that she wants at least a third of these homes to be social homes.
This is an important opportunity for stakeholders such as housing developers and associations, construction industry, community groups, and individuals to inform and help shape the future of housing in Northern Ireland.
A Call for Evidence took place earlier this year and the responses and evidence gathered have informed the draft Housing Supply Strategy. The publication of the draft Strategy will be supported by a series of virtual events and the intention of the Department is to publish the final Strategy in March 2022.
The draft Strategy considers housing as a ‘whole system’ and asks respondents to answer 14 questions, based around the five key objectives of the draft Strategy, which in brief terms are:
The delivery of Objectives 1, 4 and 5 (Creating Affordable Options, Better Places, and Decarbonisation) will be reliant on the need to ensure that the planning system, including Local Development Plans (LDPs), can deliver the appropriate supply of housing, reflecting the changing nature of need and demand and with consideration to wider policy influences including adaptive reuse and climate change. See our previous legal insight regarding the Call for Evidence and the implications for LDPs and wastewater treatment works.
The planning process will also be central to ensuring that new developments do meet the Strategy’s “Better Places” objective, with developers, housing associations, and the planning system all having a role in ensuring that new developments do in fact create the thriving and sustainable communities envisaged by the Strategy.
Sustainable transport infrastructure will be key to this, and developers are already increasingly incorporating cycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the design of their developments. Improvements to our public transport infrastructure and the availability, particularly in rural areas, of public transport to serve these new homes will be essential in supporting that element of design in new developments and ensuring that we do, in fact, build sustainable communities.
From a private transport perspective, the Prime Minister has announced that electric vehicle charging points will be legally required in new build homes in England from next year. In Northern Ireland we are increasingly finding that developers are already future proofing their homes with solar panels and battery storage, and offering to install electrical connection points for EV chargers. Such sustainability will become part and parcel of material planning considerations in the years ahead as we work towards Net Zero. It is inevitable however that grid constraints in NI will make the roll out of EV chargers on homes a challenge without upgrades to the grid in the very near future.
In terms of effecting the delivery of these increased number of houses, notably, the draft Strategy refers to increasing land availability in areas of need and demand, including through improved knowledge of public land that may be suitable for housing. An ambitious extension to the scope of the Government Land and Property Register (GLPR) Programme to digitally map all land and property holdings for Central and Local Government in NI is proposed, which will support a collaborative approach between government, private developers and the housing associations in identifying suitable land. Availability of funding (both public and private) and targeted and strategic investment in key infrastructure (including waste water infrastructure) will then be key to delivering the necessary homes on those sites.
Responses will be analysed to help finalise the Housing Supply Strategy. It is intended that the final Strategy will be published in March 2022.
TLT’s Real Estate and Planning & Environment teams regularly advise on housing matters in Northern Ireland, working with housing developers on the entire life cycle of development from site acquisition, through the provision of strategic planning advice and negotiating Section 76 planning agreements, to the development of the lands and ultimate disposal. We have experience in both the social and private housing spheres. For more information, please contact Sarah Mulholland or Mary-Jane Byrne.
15 December 2021