Tackling Housing Challenges Together: Conference Round-Up

 Colm McDaid, Supporting Communities, Mayor of LCCC, Uel Macklin, and Janet Hunter, Housing Rights

Colm McDaid, Supporting Communities, Mayor of LCCC, Uel Macklin, and Janet Hunter, Housing Rights

This past Wednesday, September 19, 2018, saw another successful collaboration with Housing Rights come to fruition in the “Tackling Housing Challenges Together: Collaboration, Community Planning and the Wellbeing Agenda” conference at Lagan Valley Island.

The idea for this year’s theme came out of the recently established Housing Forum put together through Empowering Communities and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council which aims to bring key people to the table who can have an impact on shared housing issues.

The conference included speakers from local councils, housing associations, planning organisations as well as contributors from Scotland who had to battle Storm Ali to get here.

The event was chaired by Lorraine Campbell, Chair of Supporting Communities and was opened with a welcome from the Right Worshipful Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Uel Mackin.

 “Who’s like us?” asks Martyn Evans. It’s important to find ‘unusual friends’ and learn from what works elsewhere.

“Who’s like us?” asks Martyn Evans. It’s important to find ‘unusual friends’ and learn from what works elsewhere.

The first session looked at “Promoting Wellbeing through Community Planning”. The conference heard first from Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie UK Trust who gave a fascinating presentation on Embedding Wellbeing in all that we do. Martyn discussed finding “unusual friends” and learning from those like us around the world.

Louise Warde Hunter, Deputy Secretary for Housing and Urban Regeneration at the Department for Communities examined the role of government and took us through how the NI Executive’s draft Programme for Government links to specific projects aimed at tackling housing challenges such as the Public Land for Housing Project.

 Katie Kelly talks about Vibrant Communities.

Katie Kelly talks about Vibrant Communities.

The second session of the day, “Rising to the Challenge”, featured three speakers looking in detail at their own organisations’ approaches.

Karen Smyth, Head of Policy and Governance with NILGA, discussed the mechanics of a collaboration tackling a cross cutting issue like housing and the potential for local government to deliver on this.

Katie Kelly, Deputy Chief Executive of Safer Communities with East Ayreshire Council gave an engaging and colourful presentation on the work of her Vibrant Communities project which gives real power to communities to make changes they want and need resulting in better outcomes for all.

Dr. Louise O’Kane, Planner and Engagement Officer with Community Places got specific with some practical tools for community involvement such as My Place (a participatory Card Game) and Participatory Budgeting.

 Leslie Baird, TPAS Scotland, was here to speak on Scottish Housing Day.

Leslie Baird, TPAS Scotland, was here to speak on Scottish Housing Day.

After lunch, in a third and final session, “Practical Responses – Engaging on the Ground”, delegates heard from a range of speakers and a final panel discussion.

Elma Newberry, Assistant Director of Land & Regeneration Services with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) focussed on the evidence base used to decide where and how many new homes should be built. Outlining housing need trends and the NIHE’s role as a statutory partner in the community planning process, Elma’s presentation also included a focus on future supply.

We next heard from Lesley Baird, Chief Executive of TPAS Scotland, who gave several examples of how people have been involved in the community planning process in Scotland. Delegates learned how legislation in Scotland has provided a strong infrastructure for engagement, but Leslie says there remains work to be done.

Councillor Nathan Anderson, Chair of the Housing Liaison Forum at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council spoke about the work of the newly established forum. The conference heard about the forum’s future plans and key issues they plan to tackle including antisocial behaviour and welfare reform.

In a final panel discussion, the session speakers were joined by Teresa McCloskey, Performance & Quality Improvement Manager at Apex Housing Association, Louise Moore, Head of Community Planning at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, and David Patterson, Head of Community Planning at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council who each gave a brief run down of their work in this area and took questions from the audience.

Despite the storm raging outside, the conference inside was well attended and warmly received. Supporting Communities would like to join Housing Rights in thanking our conference collaborator Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and our event sponsors: the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Apex Housing Association, South Ulster Housing Association, and Newington Housing Association.