What’s the future of the Housing Executive?

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson and Councillor Tony Hassan speaks on the future of social housing

It is my opinion that this problem really took root when in the mid-nineties the British Government took away from the Housing Executive the right to build. This in my eyes was a mistake. British Ministers who had little or no knowledge of circumstances in our communities took this decision during the years of direct rule. This decision needs to be reversed and there need to be moves at the Assembly to give this right back to the Housing Executive.

There are fears that instead of giving the Housing Executive back its right to build, that on this it 40th anniversary there is the perception out there that the Department of Social Development (DSD) are in fact running the Housing Executive down.

We are aware that the Department of Social Development (DSD) has allowed a number of Housing Associations to take over Housing Executive stock in both Derry and Belfast.

The DSD and the Housing Executive have stated their intent to transfer a further 2000 Housing Executive properties over to Housing Associations here over the course of this financial year, as the Housing Executive do not have the budget available to carry out maintenance on these homes.

There is also now some speculation that the DSD has been in talks with English based Housing Associations and that some properties will be transferred into their ownership over the course of the next 5/10 years. We should also be mindful that when a Housing Association takes ownership of Housing Executive stock, the tenant might expect the rent possibly rising by approximately £25/30 per week.

Staff that are retiring in many of the districts offices in the North whether they are Regional or District managers or Housing officers, are not being replaced.

It is my belief that Nelson Mc Causland and the DSD are allowing the Housing Executive to become a defunct body, this leads to my main question.

What is the future of the Housing Executive in the North over the next ten years?

The Tory welfare cuts will see Housing Benefit slashed.

There is a total lack of bungalow provision available in Derry unless one is specifically requested on health grounds by Occupational Therapists in new Housing Association Developments.

There is inadequate emergency/ temporary accommodation. And those who find their own private rented temporary accommodation, will face a failure to award the additional 20 points they would be entitled to for being six months homeless. And finally with new builds being non-existent within the Housing Executive, leads me to believe that the Housing Executive will be nothing more than a rent collecting body with no other responsibilities in the very near future.

In my view all of these issues places in context my concerns that I have raised consistently in Council and in the media over the last number of years. We must now set in place and implement strategic measures that will allow us to go forward in a positive manner.

Locally large pockets of land are available on the H1 and H2 sites on the Buncrana Road and at Skeoge. This would require a substantial injection of funds similar to what occurred in the early seventies, to build adequate numbers of social homes. The planning service must also play their part in approving new builds in a more efficient and speedier manner to avoid unnecessary delays in this already lengthy process.

We need to find ways in which we can help eradicate the number of homeless people in this city and further afield. It is our responsibility to ensure that this problem does not deteriorate and lead to an even greater burden placed on the generations to come.

The human right to housing is explicitly set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In conclusion I feel it’s very important that in the year 2012 every woman, man and child has the human right to a secure place to live, which is fundamental to living in dignity, to physical and mental health, and to overall quality of life.