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ESRC Data Archive Bulletin:
Housing Statistics in Northern Ireland
Text: Brendan Murtagh ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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Housing Statistics in Northern
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
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
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
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
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).Return to Contents
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.