Oaklee Homes Group welcomes the forthcoming Housing Strategy and wishes to work with the Housing Minister Nelson McCausland to help realise his vision to deliver 6,000 more homes in the coming years. Housing associations are fit for purpose to play a key role, especially with the ongoing renewal of boards and the right skills to manage our business, as well as the opportunities for greater partnership and consolidation within our sector.
We accept that government and funders require strong regulation of our sector, and we welcome any move towards greater emphasis on outcomes rather than processes. Oaklee has embraced the best aspects of the procurement process to ensure value for money and high standards for our tenants. Associations such as Oaklee have helped meet the targets for over 4,000 new homes in Northern Ireland over the past two years and aim to maintain the high building standards, as any dilution of this ‘fabric first’ approach could cause future unfitness problems. We build to pass on the savings to our tenants such as a high percentage reduction in tenant heating costs.
Oaklee accepts the need to respond positively to the economic downturn for fiscal austerity, but above average grant cuts coupled with revenue welfare reform are a double-edged sword for housing associations. There is potential to make funders nervous and even threaten their withdrawal from the market or push up the cost of borrowing for future development.
Funding will be the challenge and innovative models are needed. Private finance was introduced exactly 20 years ago and we have the skills to manage and monitor best use of public and private funding. We would ask that the strategy maximises the use of public sector surplus lands to be made available for affordable housing, along with developer contributions to meet housing need. We are proud of our partnership with the building industry. We offer housing choice, not only social housing but also flexible tenures. Affordable and accessible housing will be a key aim to help smooth transition between tenures, and Oaklee wishes to explore any opportunities to deliver.
We also address the needs of the most valuable in society through suitable housing and care along with the continued benefits available through supporting people. This links to creating truly sustainable and mixed tenure communities, through regeneration and imaginative partnerships. With news on the future of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive about to be released for consultation, we welcome any potential for collaboration and stock transfer availability.
Oaklee wishes to continue to work together with the Executive, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and all its stakeholders to achieve the ministerial vision of a long-term housing strategy, and to help deliver over 6,000 units of affordable housing in the coming few years in Northern Ireland.