HE boss Grainia Long acknowledges ‘major housing challenge’ with 4.4k waiting in Derry

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As new figures reveal more people are waiting for a social house in Derry than in any other constituency in the north, Housing Executive boss Grainia Long has told members of Derry City and Strabane District Council there is ‘a major housing challenge in every council area’.

She said the gap between housing demand and supply continues to widen despite sustained investment in new social housing.

Councillors were briefed by the Housing Executive on work in the District over the past year and plans for the year ahead, as new figures from the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey show that as of June 2022 there were 4,463 social housing applicants on the Housing Executive waiting list in the Foyle constituency.

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This was more than in any other area in the north.This includes in Belfast North (4383) and in Belfast West (3821), which had the second and third highest numbers of applicants.Derry now accounts for 10 per cent of the 44,229 people people on a housing waiting list in the north.

Housing Executive Chief Executive Office Grainia LongHousing Executive Chief Executive Office Grainia Long
Housing Executive Chief Executive Office Grainia Long

In her briefing to DC&SDC Ms. Long said significant investments have been made to try to tackle waiting lists.

“We invested over £195m in 2021/22, the highest level of investment since 2007/08 and - for the first time in 20 years – we will soon commence building new homes for social rent via a pilot project.

“In Derry and Strabane, we invested £9.4m on planned maintenance including stock improvements last year, with a further £4.8m spent on response maintenance,” she told councillors.

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Ms. Long said the HE provided additional supports for tenants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is now helping those who ‘face additional cost of living and lifestyle adjustment pressures’.

The Housing Executive, through its Supporting People programme, also invested £8.52m to fund 81 Housing Support Services across the DC&SDC area, providing housing support to 1,957 clients last year.

“Across the district, 1,212 people who presented as homeless were accepted for support last year. A strategic shift in favour of homelessness prevention and early intervention is critical if we’re to provide a sustainable model of provision to prevent homelessness,” she said.

The Housing Executive provided £184k in grant funding to support local groups.

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She told councillors more work is needed to address the housing challenge.

“Our focus is working with partners to lever in funding to scale-up the implementation of energy efficiency measures, across all housing tenures, to effectively tackle climate change and reduce fuel poverty.

“We face a major housing challenge in every council area, with continuing demand for social housing and homelessness services.

“Last year, £66.52m was invested in new-build accommodation in the district; with 398 housing starts getting underway, 1,330 units on-site at March 2022, while housing completions for the year were 148.

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“Waiting lists for social housing, as well as levels of homelessness, have risen significantly in recent years and show little sign of falling.

“Despite sustained levels of investment in new social housing across NI, the gap between housing demand and supply continues to widen,” said Ms. Long.

“Against a backdrop of rising waiting lists, the Housing Executive recognises the importance of continued partnership with councils and the housing sector and the need for sustained levels of funding for social housing to address rising levels of homelessness and growing waiting lists,” she said.