A Derry community worker has called for investment in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and not its abolition.
Kathleen Bradley of Dove House Advice Centre said that the NI Assembly needs to save the expertise within the NIHE not redirect it to a series of housing associations.
Ms Bradley was speaking after the chairman of the NIHE, Donald Hoodless, backed the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland’s preferred option of creating several housing associations from what is currently the NIHE.
The Housing Executive’s 90,000 homes and 3,000 staff are to move to housing associations under Ministerial proposals for the break-up. However job loss fears persist with one NIHE insider describing morale as “terrible.”
There are no figures for the amount of job losses, if any, expected however the NIHE are in ongoing consultations with NIPSA who represent the NIHE staff.
“The timetable for full implementation is 2015 but, according to Mr. Hoodless, that timetable is subject to political agreement, he said: “The Housing Executive will be ready for that date.”
According to informed sources, the restructuring of the Housing Executive, described as the ‘rationalisation of management units,’ has already begun.
The Housing Executive have reduced the five regional departments to create three.
The South and South East combined to form the new South Area and North, East and West combining to form the new North region. The Omagh and Cookstown offices now form part of the new South region and Belfast region remains unchanged.
The existing 27 regional offices have also been streamlined with, for example, Derry’s Waterloo, Waterside, Collon Terrace and Strabane becoming the West division.
It is understood the NIHE have informed staff that this will “result in a significant change to the way we manage housing and homelessness services.”
However NIHE management have also told staff, according to sources: “The full impact will not be known until we conclude the process... This may have implications on current working practices but we will keep staff fully informed as the programme proceeds.”
Kathleen Bradley, Dove House, said: “No matter what changes they make the same problem exists. We do not have enough houses. The Government need to empower the Housing Executive to build and buy properties to let on the affordable housing market.
“The problem is a lack of housing stock, that is what needs to be fixed.”