Belfast HMO Subject Plan 2015
Housing Need Context: Factors influencing the HMO Market
The HMO market, particularly in South Belfast, has been driven by a number of factors:
1)Student growth: The Government’s higher education policy has caused the number of students in higher education to rise significantly over the last decade. Student housing requirements have put additional pressures on a number of local housing markets throughout the UK, particularly those in close proximity to University campuses.
Queen’s University and the University of Ulster are of the view that the number of students in higher education has reached the government target and has now peaked. The impact of top up fees may see more students living at home. However, the long-term impact of top up fees on the local housing market is yet to be seen.
2)Single Persons: The population in the 18 – 29 year old age group may be declining but their lifestyle choices are having a greater impact on the housing market. The postponement of family and traditional longer-term households has led to a significant rise in the number of single person households. Furthermore, the 30 – 44 year old age group, which is characterised by a relatively high and growing incidence of relationship breakdown, has also given rise to a net increase in the number of households, many of whom are single.
Single person households tend to gravitate towards urban areas. This is a pattern across the UK. Northern Ireland trends in single person household formation have tended to lag behind trends in GB. Between 1998 and 2001 the proportion of single person households in GB, compared to all households, increased from 27% to 30% and suggests there is still potential for further growth in such households in Northern Ireland.
3) Migrant Workers: It is difficult to accurately measure the number of migrant workers in Northern Ireland as most agencies record ethnic origin rather than nationality. The NIHE Housing Market Analysis ( 1125 KB) provides information in respect of migrant workers in recent years by reviewing the research undertaken using National Insurance Numbers. The research suggests the number of migrant workers is higher than originally estimated. However, significant portions of these workers live and work outside Belfast (71%) and many are drawn to jobs in the agricultural and food processing sectors. Belfast tends to attract those involved in health care and the service sector.
It is difficult to predict if these trends will be sustained. Future economic growth may be a determining factor. However, it is highly likely that healthcare and service sectors will continue to be dependent upon such workers. Even with an economic down turn, it is expected that a significant proportion of migrant workers will remain in Northern Ireland.
The NIHE Housing Needs Assessment highlights a growing and sustained need for social housing throughout most of Belfast. Significantly, single person households are generating a growing and substantial part of this need.