Scepticism’s been expressed over estimates that the number of people in housing stress and homelessness in Derry and Strabane, rose by only 5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively over the past year.
Several members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee said they did not believe the figures were an accurate reflection of the housing crisis.
The incredulity was aired after Clarke Bailie, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and the agency’s West Area Manager Eddie Doherty, briefed the committee on its investment plans this week.
The NIHE bosses revealed 3,126 people reported that they were in housing stress in 2016/17, up five per cent year-on-year and 1,223 were accepted as homeless, up one per cent this year.
But Sinn Féin Councillor Colly Kelly said he believed there had been a “bigger increase” than that reflected in the official figures, which he questioned.
And Colr. Kelly said the 2,552 social homes programmed over the next five years would not meet the local social housing need.
SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney also questioned the accuracy of the figures and both councillors referred to the phenomenon of people effectively jumping out of the housing queue by sourcing their own ‘temporary accommodation’ from the private rental sector, instead of waiting in line on the NIHE list.
Both said it was unjust these applicants were being docked 20 housing allocation points for using their initiative to source accommodation outside the NIHE stock.
Mr. Doherty accepted this was something that was raised every year and that it would require a legislative initiative at Stormont to address.
He said he would raise it again with the Department for Communities, NIHE’s parent department.