Housing Executive halt scheme to transfer homes after tenants reject plan in ballot

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By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

A scheme to transfer around 2,000 homes from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to housing associations has been halted after the plans were rejected by tenants.

The stock transfer programme was announced in 2013 by the former Social Development DUP minister Nelson McCausland.

It was described as an opportunity to provide funding for major improvement works to the homes.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), which owns around 86,500 homes, is in the grip of a severe funding shortage and has recently warned that it may have to stop investing in its stock after 2020 if the situation does not change.

Tenants on the two estates which have had ballots – the Grange Estate in Ballyclare and the Ballee Estate in Ballymena – voted against the stock transfer.

The Department for Communities has now decided to suspend the stock transfer programme.

NIHE rents have been frozen at around £66 a week since 2016, while housing association rents tend to be higher.

Professor Paddy Gray

Housing expert Professor Paddy Gray said: “It is not surprising that NIHE tenants have voted to stay with the organisation given its track record over the years and its high levels of community involvement. The main problem the organisation has going forward, however, is finding money to invest in its existing stock which is deteriorating and will continue to do so.

“In other parts of the UK housing associations and other not-for-profit organisations have been seen as a good vehicle to attract new funding streams and indeed in Northern Ireland our associations have been excellent at attracting money to match what government is prepared to give. This has provided much needed high quality homes across the province that are managed to the highest standards.

“Government needs to urgently take action to allow the NIHE to borrow significant funds to protect our social housing and work alongside associations to provide much needed new housing to eradicate homelessness and housing stress.”

NIPSA official Paddy Mackel said: “For the second time in 13 months, local residents have voted overwhelmingly to reject the Department’s attempts to remove their homes from the Housing Executive stock. The people have spoken loudly and clearly. They wish to remain with the NIHE.”

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