The “Shared Housing” headline action from the “Together: Building A United Community” (T:BUC) strategy has provided the foundation of a draft Programme for Government.
It’s entitled: “Housing for All” Shared Neighbourhood Programme.
T:BUC reflects the Northern Ireland Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.
Also assisting in the implementation of T:BUC is the Community Relations Council.
The T:BUC strategy includes is a range of commitments designed to lead to sustainable improvements in good relations.
One such commitment – delivered by the Department for Communities – was the creation of 10 new shared housing developments, including the Port Building Belfast completed September 2019.
This has also led to the development of the current (Draft) Programme for Government Shared Housing Programme.
“Housing for All” is currently delivering a further 26 shared housing schemes across the province, bringing the total number of shared housing units to 1,298.
Annual Northern Ireland Life And Times Survey
The annual Northern Ireland Life And Times survey records the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people in Northern Ireland on a wide range of social policy issues.
Each year the survey indicates a high proportion of people would prefer to live in a mixed-religion neighbourhood.
In 2018 this figure stood at 76%.
Shared Housing Programme
The Shared Housing Strategy is designed to improve available housing choices by tackling barriers preventing people from living in shared neighbourhoods.
A key factor of the Programme has been the use of voluntary “Good Neighbour” charters.
The Housing Executive and the participating Housing Associations ask their tenants to sign up to a voluntary Good Neighbour charter, which encourages support for good relations within the shared housing schemes.
It is also supported by a 5-year Good Relations Plan that includes “bonding” programmes for new tenants, and ”bridging” programmes delivered between new residents and those from surrounding areas.
Good Relations Plans are a vital tool in supporting new residents and surrounding communities.
Good Relations Plan
A crucial stage in the development of the Good Relations Plans is the establishment of Advisory Groups drawn from:
- Local political representatives
- Voluntary and Community sector organisations
- Local Council and Housing Executive Good Relations Officers
- Statutory bodies.
The Advisory Groups are key to supporting and monitoring the delivery of the Good Relations Plans which include thematic programmes in areas such as Health and Well-being, Youth and Cultural Diversity.
A vital component to the success of the Shared Housing Programme has been the partnership approach adopted between The Executive Office, the Department for Communities, the Housing Executive, and the Programme’s key delivery partner – the Northern Ireland Housing Association Movement.
This approach has enabled incremental policy development that ensures practical delivery of the shared schemes and the Good Relations Plans.