Housing Executive accepts unequal balance in provision of local housing

Cllr Thomas Hogg
Cllr Thomas Hogg

The Housing Executive has said it accepts that there is an inequality in the provision of social homes among local communities.

The housing organisation’s chief executive John McPeake admitted that there was an imbalance in housing allocation locally during a presentation from the executive on its investment plan for the future.

Mr McPeake said that the practice happened across the board which meant that when housing allocation was considered on a larger scale there would be a balance struck between housing allocated to the different communities.

Councillor Thomas Hogg raised the issues at the June 17 Planning and Consultation Committee meeting in Mossley Mill.

He said: “The Housing Executive has to meet certain criteria to provide homes in certain areas.

“Looking at the social housing projection for new builds in Newtownabbey between 2012 and 2016 it makes interesting and worrying reading.

“In Rushpark there are 50 homes needed and just 17 to be built. In Rathcoole there are 85 homes needed and 45 to be built.

“However, in the Longlands and Bawnmore areas there is a need for 30 homes, but 152 are to be built.”

He went on: “Social housing need in all areas provided by the taxpayer needs to be provided on a equitable basis.

“Reading these figures does not make good news. There needs to be balance in the allocation and building of social homes in all areas which we are not seeing.”

Responding John McPeake said: “I accept what you are saying and you are right.

“There is a simple method used in the science of determining houses to be built and where they are to be built, but at times the practicalities of the matter get in the way.

“When you drill down to a local level there will be an imbalance, but when you look at it at a macro level there is a balance.”

He added: “Bawnmore is a slightly different case. While it is in Newtownabbey we have found that it is significant in meeting the needs of people in need of housing from north Belfast. It’s similar to the way, for example, people from Newtownabbey might be allocated homes in Carrick.

“So we have to consider that.”

During the meeting councillors also quizzed the Housing Executive officials on the progress of current schemes throughout the borough.

They raised concerns around window replacement schemes and on the executive’s approach to dealing with bonfires built on its land.

Councillors congratulated the staff on their “hard work” throughout the year.

Councillor John Scott said: “The Housing Executive staff do a tremendous job, often in very difficult circumstances.

“I know that staff have had to deal with threats and intimidation, but they manage to work through it and you always know they are doing their best.”

The Housing Executive’s chief executive and local area manager Sharon Crooks were presenting their annual report to the council and outlining the near £10million of investment proposed to spend in the area over the next 12 months.

While the bulk of the money will be spent on maintenance programmes there will also be expenditure on environmental schemes and on supporting vulnerable people.

Sharon said: “Despite pressures on our funding the Housing Executive will continue to provide its day-to-day maintenance service. Tenants will see this service protected in line with their conditions of tenancy.

“This year’s work programme includes new heating systems for 182 homes, external maintenance for 312 homes, double glazing for 306 homes, kitchen replacement for 104 homes and smoke alarm replacements in 452 homes.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the councillors and council officers for their support over the past year.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the council on issues of mutual interest in the coming year.”