CAIN Web Service

ESRC Data Archive Bulletin:
Housing Statistics in Northern Ireland

[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text: Brendan Murtagh ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Housing Statistics in Northern Ireland

Brendan Murtagh
University of Ulster


The reform of local government in the early seventies had significant implications for the administration of housing services in Northern Ireland. After 1972 responsibility for framing housing policy rested with the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) (DOE(NI)) while a new body, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), was given significant executive powers to implement strategic policy. Consequently, the production of the majority of housing statistics in Northern Ireland is shared between the Central Statistics and Research Branch of the DOE(NI) and the Research Unit of the NIHE. This short paper examines the range, quality and availability of housing statistics and comments on the relationship with datasets available in Great Britain. The role of and output from the DOE(NI) is assessed first.

Statistical Output from the DOE(NI)

The Department's Central Statistics and Research Branch (CSRB) research and compile the 'Northern Ireland Housing Statistics' report which is the main data source on housing in the province. The report replicates the British digest of housing statistics produced by the Department of the Environment in Bristol. The Northern Ireland version is extensive in terms of issues covered and level of detailed reporting. The report considers general data on the Northern Ireland housing stock including a backdated series of tenure, housing conditions and demolished dwellings. The report also examines public expenditure on housing. Detailed statistics are provided on new housing building activity the private sector and the Housing Executive. Information is also supplied on the number and type, of renovation grants to home owners and improvements to the public sector stock. Detailed temporal and spatial data on improvements are also included in the analysis. Housing Association activity is also monitored together with housing finance in Northern Ireland. The latter analysis includes data on the volume and value of building society advances, NIHE home loans and an analysis of the sale of NIHE dwellings aggregated by Northern Ireland's 26 District Council areas. Finally, a range of data is published on aspects of HE management including waiting lists, rental levels and arrears broken down by time and in some cases by District Council area. Thus, a key advantage of the Northern Ireland digest is the amount and range of detailed information available in accessible published form.

This annual report is complemented by a quarterly bulletin containing construction and house prices indices. Since 1978 the government in Northern Ireland has collected comprehensive data on Northern Ireland house price movements. While similar statistics are available from a range of sample surveys the DOE(NI) analysis is based on all sales of existing houses and new dwellings in the province. The Valuations and Lands Office supply data on existing sales values and the National House Building Council (NHBC) provide price data for new houses which have been built by BC registered companies. However, the latter source excludes new dwellings built by non registered builders and available NHBC data are not broken down by type of house or region. The data base supports detailed ward based analysis and published data covers tenure, temporal and regional price differences. Access to the data is restricted by a protection legislation limiting the amount of analysis that can be undertaken by third parties. The construction index is based on similar method to the Great Britain index and is compiled from a quarterly survey of building contractors and public bodies involved in construction.

The DOE(NI) also commission and publish ad-hoc studies on specific housing problems and issues. Recent published reports included data on the Co-ownership Housing Association (the Northern Ireland equivalent of shared ownership) and the private sector housing market. The latter included detailed econometric projections of house building activity and price movements.

Statistical Output from the NIHE

As with the DOE(NI), the NIHE produce data from repeated and ad hoc research. While the Department concentrate mainly on private sector activity the Housing Executive's research programme relates mainly to public sector housing issues. Two significant exceptions to this are the statutory obligation to undertake the NI House Condition Survey and independent production of the NI Regional Household survey which supplies inter-censual data on the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the population. Published statistics are available for housing conditions for 1974, 1979, 1984 and 1987. In an effort to ensure accurate comparison with housing conditions in the rest of UK the 1991 House Condition Survey was carried out jointly with the DOE (Marsham Street) and the Building ,Research Establishment. This was the most comprehensive survey of housing conditions in the province and will supply detailed data on dwelling unfitness, amenity deprivation and disrepair. For the first time a set of social questions have been included in the physical survey. The sample size of the survey in Northern Ireland was nearly 13,000 which is designed to support reporting by District Council area. The level of disaggregated analysis is greater in Northern Ireland than in the survey for England where the sample size at approximately 25,000 dwelling units represents a much higher sample fraction.

The Northern Ireland regional household survey is carried out in the mid- census year and is primarily designed to provide planners with more up to date and accurate data on population trends. The last survey carried out in 1985/1986 sampled 22,000 dwellings in NI but with the sample biased toward the Belfast urban area. The boosted sample size has enabled ward level analysis and data from the survey has been used recently to identify areas of social deprivation in the city. Data published in the report and available on the data base includes standard household details, employment status, household income, benefit dependency, migration patterns and car ownership. The NIHE will provide specific requested tabular reports from the survey on a cost basis but direct third party access to the data base is not permitted. The Housing Executive have recently entered into a commercial agreement with the marketing company CCN to promote and sell the data on a commercial basis.

The Executive have also published public and tenant attitude surveys. The General Tenant Household Survey involved a sample of 10,000 tenants and is designed to be repeated every three years. The data base includes information on the changing physical and social composition of the stock, attitudes to key services and religion of household. The religion variable is included to enable monitoring of the impact of housing policy on the two main religions in the province.

The NIHE also have a strong profile of ad hoc research resulting a wide range of statistics and analysis on a number of key housing issues. Recent projects involved a survey of households in rural areas, an updated survey of people who bought an NIHE dwelling, and a survey of homeless hostels. Small area statistics are complied on the physical and social characteristics of individual housing estates and the Homeless Monitor database provides detailed data on the characteristics of people presenting themselves as homeless. As with the other sources, data from the Homeless database is published only at aggregate level and access to non-government users is again restricted.


Three main points can be made in conclusion. Published housing statistics in Northern Ireland are extensive and on the key indictors of stock characteristics, dwelling conditions, housing finance and management activity data can be matched with available information in Great Britain. The latest House Condition Survey exemplifies a general move to ensure effective comparison of the housing environment in Northern Ireland with that in the rest of the United kingdom. In addition, the methodological rigour applied to the collection and analysis of housing statistics ensures that high quality and reliable datasets are produced. However, the restrictive access to many of these datasets for secondary analysis limits their usefulness in understanding and analyzing housing problems and policy in Northern Ireland or developing a UK perspective. If the value and effectiveness of this information is to be maximised then methods, such as the use of data archives, should be actively considered by statisticians and policy makers.

Selected statistical sources

Department of the Environment (NI) (1991) Housing Statistics, Belfast, DOE(NI).
Department of the Environment (NI) Northern Ireland Housing and Construction Bulletin, Belfast DOE(NI). The bulletin is produced four times per year.
Department of the Environment (NI) (1989) The Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Scheme, Belfast, DOE(NI).
Northern Ireland Housing Executive Northern Ireland House Condition Survey, Belfast NIHE. Published House Condition Surveys are available for 1974, 1979, 1984 and 1987. The 1991 House Condition Survey is due to be published in late 1992.
Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1986) Greater Belfast Household Survey, Belfast, NIHE.
Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1992) General Tenant Household Survey, Belfast, NIHE.

Return to Contents

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :