‘Growing concern’ over housing placements in Derry - Minister agrees to meeting

Mark H. Durkan raised concerns about some people who have been brought into Derry from outside to Housing Executive emergency accommodation in the city.

The Foyle MLA asked the Minister for Communities, to explain the policy and practice behind housing placements.

Mr. Durkan said: “Although I fully appreciate the efforts made and challenges faced by the Housing Executive to ensure that everyone here has a roof over their head, particularly over the past year, there is a growing concern in this constituency, which her party colleagues will bear out, not about the number of people from other districts being placed in temporary and emergency housing in Derry but, sadly, the nature of some of those people.”

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In response to Mr. Durkan’s comments, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “We try to map out accommodation where it is needed. Primarily, the accommodation strategy is a matter for the Housing Executive. I know that it is being looked at.

Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan.

“Obviously, COVID has presented a really big challenge for people who have been made homeless through no fault of their own over the last year.

“Trying to keep to the public health advice while trying to house people as quickly as possible, where accommodation is available, has been challenging.’’

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The Minister added: “Unfortunately, sometimes, that accommodation may not be available in the area that people are looking at or in the area that they need, so they have to be placed in other areas.

“There have been issues pertaining to the Derry area, and there has been communication with my Department.We have engaged proactively with the Housing Executive to overcome those issues.’’

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The Minister also said: “We are looking at a homelessness strategy because we recognise that more needs to be done and that the need is not being met.

“We are also looking at a supply strategy for the accommodation that is on offer, and I hope to bring forward proposals in the time ahead.

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“I am more than happy to sit down with the Member or to have a meeting with representatives in his area to look at the issue and to engage the Housing Executive.’’

Mr. Durkan said: “In case anyone is in any doubt, I place on record that Derry is an extremely welcoming city. We have opened our arms, our hearts and our doors to people from all over the world who are seeking refuge and a better way of life.

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“Will the Minister confirm that she will commit to working with the Housing Executive, the PSNI, other agencies and, extremely importantly, communities to ensure improved management to minimise risk when it comes to rehousing known offenders?”

Ms. Hargey replied: “I concur that Derry is a lovely city. It is very welcoming. Any time that I have been there, I have been welcomed by the community across the board. I am more than happy to meet and to sit down with the Housing Executive, with the communities and others to discuss any of those issues. If a request to meet comes in, I will be more than happy to accept it.”