Concern over Grange estate ‘sale’

Paul Girvan
Paul Girvan

Ballyclare MLA Paul Girvan has expressed serious concern about a Housing Executive plan to transfer the Grange estate to a housing association.

The Housing Executive is examining ways of transferring its stock to the associations because it can no longer afford to carry out much-needed repairs on a large scale.

Officials at the Housing Executive have admitted that the Grange estate has been identified as one area which could be transferred to a housing association.

They said the proposals were still in the early stages and said residents would be consulted before any change takes place.

They said other areas in Newtownabbey were being considered under the project, but refused to disclose their locations.

MLA Paul Girvan expressed serious reservations about the project and said residents could face higher rents under the proposals.

He told the Times: “People living in the Grange are rightly concerned. They feel this is the Housing Executive washing its hands of the Grange estate with this proposed sale to a housing association.

“While they may get the repairs and maintenance they need in their homes there is a fear they will have to pay for it in the end.

“A social housing scheme on the Rashee Road run by a housing association charges tenants, on average, £11 more than the Housing Executive.

“Housing associations have amassed large amounts of public money and can pay that can pay for repair work - but at what cost to the tenants?

“These housing associations are much less accountable to the public and elected representatives than what the Housing Executive is.

“The Housing Executive has its faults, but it may well be a case of better the devil you know, than who you don’t.

“There needs to be a full-on open consultation on this before anything is decided.”

A spokesman for the Housing Executive said the transfer of some 2,000 homes across the province was being considered because it was struggling to pay for mounting repair bills and improvement schemes.

He said: “With regard to the dwellings in our former multi-element improvement programme (MEI), the [Housing Executive] Board approved an approach that has seen many of these re-programmed for phased single element revenue schemes or capital kitchen schemes.

“We also implemented a pilot stock transfer scheme in Creggan (Londonderry) which saw the transfer of 55 dwellings, which we had originally programmed for MEI works, transferred to Apex Housing Association in October 2011 for a mix of improvement and redevelopment work.

“Since then a joint Housing Executive and DSD Working Group has been developing a refined stock transfer process and the Minister has requested a programme of 2,000 homes to be transferred by 2015.”

He added: “We know that the levels of investment in our housing stock in the past years can no longer be sustained. During the year we transferred 55 homes in the Rinmore estate, Londonderry which had not benefitted from an improvement scheme because of funding restrictions. The homes were transferred to Apex Housing Association to carry out much needed improvements through private finance leverage. Further transfer schemes are being planned as agreed with our minister.

“Grange estate is one of the areas being considered for this approach. However, this process is in its early stages and the Housing Executive and DSD are currently examining how best to deliver the proposals.”