Policy difference and policy ownership under UK devolution: social housing policy in Northern Ireland

Jenny Muir

Research output: Working paper

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This paper assesses the impact of UK devolution on social housing policy in Northern Ireland from 1999 until 2011, with a particular focus on the administration from May 2007 until April 2011, the first in which the elected elements of the process functioned for the entire period. Housing is one of the responsibilities of the Minister for Social Development. Northern Ireland has had a political commitment to the provision of good quality social housing for many years, both before and after the 1998 Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement and the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive in 1999.
The paper begins with an analysis of factors contributing to policy difference within the United Kingdom under the 1999 devolution settlement, noting that these factors may contribute either to policy convergence or divergence between the four UK jurisdictions. There follow reflections on the concept of ‘policy ownership’ in multi-level states and the benefits of this analytical approach for consideration of housing policy under UK devolution. A review of social housing policy since 1999 is followed by discussion of three key issues from the 2007-11 administration: the governance of social housing; the procurement of new social housing; and improving access to shared space and a shared future. The paper concludes that, in Northern Ireland, the 2007-11 administration marked a transition between a technocratic past and the future policy ownership of the social housing policy field by locally elected politicians. Reflections on wider implications for UK social policy, for UK devolution, and for the complex governance structures of devolved and federal states are also included.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationQueen's University Belfast
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

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