Over 80% of people on the social housing waiting list in Derry and Strabane are single people or small households, the Housing Executive (HE) has revealed.
HE bosses presented their current Housing Investment Plan before the September meeting of Derry & Strabane Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee at the Guildhall.
HE Chief Executive Clark Bailie are currently over 1,200 homeless households in Derry & Strabane from among the over 4,000 on the housing waiting list. Of these, as of June, there were over 3,000 families and single people in housing stress.
Mr Bailie, said he was aware that there was “marked lack” of private rental sector opportunities locally, which was adding to the pressure on housing.
Over the past year, he added, the HE invested £8.2m towards newbuild social housing in the city and district, with almost 500 homes under construction, while the need over the next five years has bee put at close to 2,000 new homes.
Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly said housing and housing need was the “single biggest issue” he dealt with.
He also questioned whether the projected new housing need was enough when there were around 40 applicants presenting as homeless across the three Housing Executive offices in Derry alone every month.
Colr. Kelly also warned that the lack of new bungalows was something that was an issue of major concern. Mr Bailie responded that this was due to restrictions from the government. Speaking about those presenting to the Housing Executive, he added: “We are trying to have a very honest and mature conversation so when people come to us, we are giving them a realistic picture of what their options are. For me the important thing is we are able to give someone the right housing solution for their housing requirements.”
Avril McAllister, the Housing Executive’s District Manager, said that in terms of turnover of existing homes, more and more people were staying longer in their houses these days and there was not as much movement as there would have been years ago.
Independent Colr. Darren O’Reilly said the quality of temporary accommodation was often “sub-standard”.
Colr. Reilly added: “80% of my work would be housing. There is a crisis in this city. People see the long drawn out process and the points system and think ‘what’s the point?’
He added that this crisis was impacting on the mental health of some people on the waiting list.
SDLP Colr. John Boyle said he had no doubt that all public representatives were being “inundated” with housing issues. He added that the statistics were “stark and worrying”.
“Somewhere in the region of 80% of those on the waiting list are single people or small families. That’s a sizeable proportion,” he said
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said there were children staying with their grandparents because their families can’t get a home, adding that Housing Executive staff were under “immense pressure”. “The staff are generally very, very helpful and do go that extra mile,” he said.