Housing Executive outlines plans to build 1.1k new social homes in Derry and Strabane following slight increase in homelessness and housing stress

Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive.
Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive.

The Housing Executive has pledged to build over a thousand new homes in Derry and Strabane over the next three years, in cooperation with local housing associations, against a backdrop of increases in homelessness and housing stress.

Clark Bailie, the Housing Executive’s Chief Executive, and Eddie Doherty, the agency’s West Area Manager, outlined the plans to increase the level of social housing stock in the city at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Presenting NIHE’s housing investment plans for the area, Messrs. Bailie and Doherty, said there has been a slight increase in the number of people in housing stress in the North West over the past year.

Of 4,360 housing applications, for example, 3,126 (72 per cent) of applicants were classed as being in housing stress as of March 2017, a five per cent hike on last year.

Equally, 1,223 (63 per cent) of the 1,936 people who presented as homeless were deemed to be so, which amounted to a one per cent increase.

The committee heard that 2,552 new social housing units will be needed in Derry and Strabane over the next five years and that 1,161 are planned between now and 2020.

Addressing the committee, Mr. Bailie said: “Our Housing Investment Plan was informed by a range of stakeholders and developed as a comprehensive conversation piece for the whole housing sector in Northern Ireland.

“The Housing Executive works hard to maintain a good working relationship with Derry City and Strabane District Council and it is important this continues.

“As the strategic housing authority for Northern Ireland we have prepared this plan to inform the community planning partnership on the state of the housing market, on housing needs, the policy priorities and public sector investment proposals for 2015/19.

“Lots of work needs to be done to meet housing need, improve housing stock and provide support for the most vulnerable in our community – we will continue to play our part to ensure this work is delivered efficiently and effectively.”

Mr. Doherty said; “Our district teams provide a high quality, dedicated housing service to the area.

“Working alongside our Customer Services Unit, Accounts and Housing Benefit teams, we provide our tenants and the wider community with an effective and efficient service.

“We are committed to investing in the Derry City and Strabane area to improve the lives of people in our communities.

“My thanks are extended to the councillors and officers of Derry City and Strabane District Council for their support for the Housing Executive - we look forward to continuing to work with them on matters of mutual interest over the coming year.”

Messrs. Bailie and Doherty promised NIHE will make a significant investment in the North West during 2017/18.

For instance, £30.5 million will be invested in upgrading and maintaining its properties, supporting people to live independently, increasing the energy efficiency of homes and providing grant aid in the private sector.

Maintaining its housing stock is a priority for the Housing Executive and this year in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, the organisation will spend £15.95 million on planned and response maintenance to its homes, and a further £3.38 million on capital improvements.

This will include outside maintenance work to 1,350 homes and revenue replacements to 565 homes.

And to address energy efficiency, heating installations will be carried out to 268 homes and double glazing to 165 homes.

In 2017/18 the Housing Executive will also invest £8.38m for housing support services.

It currently funds 71 sheltered and supported housing schemes in the Derry City and Strabane Council area as well as nine floating support services.