Majority required for NIHE proposal to proceed

Independent Assembly election candidate, Dr. Anne McCloskey and Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Association (NIFHA), Cameron Watt.
Independent Assembly election candidate, Dr. Anne McCloskey and Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Association (NIFHA), Cameron Watt.
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The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) proposal to transfer 255 homes in the Bogside to a housing association will proceed if 50.1 per cent of tenants agree to the proposition.

NIHE made the proposal in order to facilitate the investment required to improve the properties that otherwise may not be available.

A spokesperson stressed that the proposal was at a “very early stage” and insisted that all residents would be consulted.

“The proposal to transfer 255 NIHE properties in the Rossville Street area is still at a very early stage and no housing association has as yet been appointed to develop this proposal with us,” said the spokesperson.

“We have written out to all tenants in Rossville and recently met with elected representatives from the area to brief them on the proposal.”

The spokesperson continued: “It will be the majority vote which decides the outcome. An Independent Tenant Adviser will be available during the formal consultation process to assist and advise the tenants, while a Ballot Facilitator, independent of both the Housing Executive and the housing association, will conduct the ballot.”

Elected representatives have criticised the proposal but the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), Mr. Cameron Watt, believes the proposition is “at the very least, worth exploring.”

“These homes all require significant refurbishment. As NIHE does not currently have the required resources, it believes there is a potential role for housing associations to use their access to low-cost private finance to facilitate the necessary tens of millions of pounds of investment - surely the proposal is at the very least worth exploring,” said Mr. Watt.

“However, this is no done deal. In each area there will be a ballot on the proposals, with transfer only proceeding if there is a majority of tenants in favour.”

Mr. Watt said whilst tenants’ rent would increase under a housing association, the new cost would be reflective of the improvements made to the properties.

“There would be an increase in rent for all tenants if the proposal was to be successful but this increase would be reflective of the work that would be carried out in each home.

“For example, a similar proposal went through in the Rinmore Drive area of Derry two years ago. On average rent increased by £14 per week but because of the improvements made to the homes, residents were saving approximately £10 per week on the cost of heating.”

Independent candidate, Dr. Anne McCloskey, who is seeking election to the Assembly in May, claimed the proposal has caused “deep anxiety” to residents.

“This proposal has caused deep anxiety to the residents who have contacted me,” she said.

“Stormont’s systematic dismantling of the Housing Executive over recent years is another shocking example of short-sighted austerity-by-stealth.

“This proposal would place the hard won right to fair housing, on the rubbish heap, and leave struggling families facing insecurity of tenancy and probable steep rent rises,” she claimed.