Call for action to stop social housing ‘hopping’

Waterside SDLP Councillor Sinead McLaughlin. (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Waterside SDLP Councillor Sinead McLaughlin. (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

The Housing Executive has confirmed it is re-examining the allocation of social housing points for intimidation amid warnings the current system was contributing to “tenant hopping” across Derry.

SDLP Councillor Sinead McLaughlin raised the matter with the Housing Executive (HE) during a Council meeting in Derry on Tuesday.

Colr. McLaughlin claimed that the social housing points system here was “fundamentally flawed”. She said that while there were genuine cases of intimidation, the current system was also not helping to deal with anti-social behaviour.

“We are building quality houses and new communities but unfortunately we are placing people who have been involved in unacceptable behaviour in these new homes and it is causing havoc and damage to these new communities”, she warned. “Practically not a day goes by without someone ringing me about the new home they have waited on so long being affected by anti-social behaviour on an hourly basis.”

The Waterside representative argued that 200 points for intimidation was far too high and reducing that would level the playing field and help “prevent social housing hopping”.

It was confirmed at the meeting that in the past year, locally there have been 60 cases of people presenting to the Housing Executive “under alleged threat”.

Eddie Doherty, HE Western Area Manager said that the HE was looking to revamp its policy, and had met with police to consider what they deemed to be a credible threat. “My view is that we shouldn’t be awarding them 200 points just quite so quickly,” he said.

He added that the threshold for removing tenants was “considerably high”. “I would have to go before a judge,” he said, “and the threshold of evidence is also considerably high and over a period of time. “Everybody’s tenancy is protected under law and the HE does not have power to remove that.”

Mr. Doherty confirmed however that in the past he has on occasion gone before a judge and secured the right to evict tenants. He agreed that when this situation arises it is “very difficult and very stressful” for the affected tenants

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said that while there were some support programmes with the HE, sometimes Housing Associations were filling estates up with tenants with difficulties without putting the proper supports in place, and warned this often ended up being a “recipe for disaster”. “This is impacting on the lives and well being of other tenants,” he warned.

Sinn Fein Colr. Aileen Mellon agreed that “grouping vulnerable people together without support was a recipe for disaster”.