Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Councillor Tony Hassan has challenged the newly appointed chief executive of the Housing Executive, Mr. Clark Bailie, to an “open debate” in Derry on the issue of available land to build social housing.
Colr. Hassan’s comments come hot on the heels of Mr. Bailie’s claims that there is a difficulty in relation to the availability of land in Derry to build the numbers of social homes required to facilitate the current social housing crisis in the city.
“I would challenge Clark Bailie to an open debate on the issue of the availability of land in the city that can and could be used for an injection of social homes that, in turn, would help the increasing number of homeless families to get a home of their own and end the housing crisis,” Colr. Hassan said.
Last week, Mr. Bailie spoke at the new Housing Investment Plan for the Derry and Strabane area for 2015 to 2019.
During that meeting that Mr. Bailie said the Housing Executive was experiencing a “reluctance among landowners to sell land”.
However, Colr. Hassan insisted that the only way the social housing problem in Derry could be tackled practically is by allowing housing associations to bid for the land on which social houses could be built.
“We have the Skeoge Lands available where hundreds of social homes could be built and also the massive H2 site,” maintained Colr. Hasson.
“At the minute I know of a number of housing associations that are waiting patiently to acquire land at Buncrana Road.
“We need to get into discussions with the land owners and banks to ensure that the land is freed up.
“I believe they should give the housing associations the option to make a bid for it other than selling it to speculators and investors who will hold onto land for years in the hope of selling at a higher price years later.”
Colr. Hassan conceded that the landowners are well within their rights to try and get the best possible price for their land but added that unless something is done soon the plight of those waiting for social housing in Derry will continue to get worse.
“They have every right to do so ,but it isn’t helping the drastic housing situation in Derry.
“It is totally unacceptable that people are living in over-crowded conditions reminiscent of the early decades of the last century.
“The number of people deemed homeless and in housing stress in this city now sits at 2,300 with another 1,330 on the Housing Executive waiting lists bringing the total in need of housing in Derry city to 3,600.
“I believe if there is a will there is way to get of this crisis and I hope Clark Bailie responds positively to my request,” added Colr. Hassan.