Public housing in Northern Ireland – The spectre of privatisation and Orwellian newspeak?

online event
Thursday 25 November 2021 (12:00-14:00)

Stewart Smyth, Senior Lecturer in Accounting, Birmingham Business School

It is now nearly a year since the ministerial announcement was made on the future of the NI Housing Executive (NIHE). The NIHE, a concrete legacy of the 1960s civil rights movement, has been under-funded for decades leading to a crisis that includes the possibility of half its housing stock being divested. The proposed solution is to reclassify the NIHE as a mutual or co-operative; in the process evading HM Treasury’s rules that currently restrict the ability to borrow.

This proposed solution has generated some debate about whether or not the proposal represents a form of privatisation. In this seminar Stewart Smyth will explore different conceptions of privatisation, drawing on the experience of public housing transfers in Britain. He will conclude that one possible outcome of the proposal is a form of Orwellian newspeak, where the NIHE is effectively privatised but the official narrative claims it is not. 

Stewart Smyth has a longstanding research interest in the funding and accountability of public housing in these islands. He is the author of several research reports on the future of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the most recent (in February 2020) being 21st Century Housing for Northern Ireland for the trade union NIPSA.

Stewart is a member of the HCRG and is Deputy Director of CHASM at the University of Birmingham. He is also a member of the NI Department for Communities’ Expert Advisory Panel for the Housing Executive Revitalisation Programme.