850 new social houses to be started in Skeoge area of Derry over the next two years
A further 850 new social homes are to be developed on H2 lands in Derry over the next two years, the chief executive of housing association Apex has told Derry & Strabane Councillors.
Sheena McCallion said that the major new programme of works will take place in two phases on the H2 lands at Skeoge as she made a presentation to Councillors recently on the work being carried out by the housing association locally.
The Apex CEO told local elected members that the organisation is a ‘key player in the provision of social housing’, and gave an update on its forthcoming H2 and Top of the Hill St Brecan’s projects.
“With regards to our plans for the Derry City and Strabane District Council area for the coming period we had hoped to get onsite at St Brecan’s Park in September but that has slipped a bit and it’s likely it will be November 2021 and that will finish that development of 14 units,” she said.
“We have plans for the H2 lands which will come forward in two phases and we are hoping to be onsite in March 2022 with the first phase of 450 new units of accommodation and the second phase in March 2023 with a further 400 units.”
Apex already has numerous social housing developments completed and more under way across the Skeogelands / Buncrana Road area.
Sheena McCallion also spoke about Apex’s current stock in the Derry City and Strabane District Council Area.
Focussing on their repairs and maintenance service, Councillors were told that Apex currently manages 6,433 properties throughout N Ireland, with 3,303 - over half - of those within the Derry City & Strabane District Council area.
Ms McCallion explained that the bulk of the stock within the council area was general family accommodation with 2,622 general needs properties, while 318 of the 3,303 are for sheltered living, 233 for shared supported living and 123 for supported living.
She said: “We are a key provider of supported living, providing care and support in a number of facilities throughout the City and District area and beyond.
“Those provide a range of services including hostels for those with alcohol and drug addiction, we have accommodation for those with learning disabilities, those with mental health issues and we have a foyer for young people and a range of accommodation to meet older people’s needs which includes sheltered housing.”
The virtual Chamber was also updated on repair categories and response times. Councillors were told that Apex provides a 24 Hour call-out repairs service 365 days a year with the response times for an immediate category callout being four hours, emergency 24 hours, urgent four days and routine 20 working days.
From April 2020 to March 2021 there were a total of 13,921 callouts with 11,808 completed on time. 1,722 of these callouts were in the immediate category with 1,698 completed on time.
Ms McCallion said: “Apex invested £18m in repairs and maintenance during 2019 -2021. £6m was spent on responsive repairs and grounds maintenance managed on a two-week rotating cycle; £4m was spent on cyclical maintenance including 1,000 homes redecorated and 500 dwellings had smoke and CO2 alarms replaced.
“A further £6m was spent on planned maintenance, including 275 oil to gas heating conversions at Cornshell Fields and 250 kitchens replaced and £2m was spent on statutory compliance obligations including legionella checks, PAT testing and electrical inspections.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson welcomed the development in St Brecan’s Park, congratulating everyone involved.
“The development’s first phase has provided much needed homes for a large number of young families and we all look forward to the next phase,” he said.
“I know Apex housing officers have gone over and above to facilitate and support the integration of new tenants into the whole community.
“In respect to St Brecan’s Park, I know there’s a large number of families with a lot of young children and while the development is state of the art, award-winning, there is a request from some residents for road safety measures.”
Ms McCallion assured Colr. Jackson she would follow up on the road safety issue.
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter