‘Housing stress in Londonderry remains a major concern’ - NIHE

editorial image

The Housing Executive (NIHE) says the gap between demand and supply in the social housing sector in Londonderry remains a major concern with 67 per cent of local applicants deemed to have been in housing stress at March 2014.

Last week the NIHE confirmed it plans spending £15.82m upgrading and maintaining 3,382 homes in Londonderry over 2014/15.

Yet in its new District Housing Plan and Local Housing Strategy 2014/2015 for Londonderry the NIHE confirms housing stress remains an acute problem in the city.

According to the new plan there were 3,376 applicants registered on the waiting list for social housing in the city in March and 2,250 of these (66.6 per cent) were in housing stress.

This is in a city which is more reliant on social housing than in Northern Ireland generally.

NIHE figures show the proportion of social housing in Londonderry (22.7 per cent) is greater than the Northern Ireland figure of 14.9 per cent.

Referring to this need the report’s authors state: “The gap between demand and supply within the Derry City Council Area’s social housing sector remains a major concern and the impact of welfare reform proposals on waiting lists is being carefully monitored.

“We continue to review the requirement and availability of one bed properties and identify opportunities to increase supply through new build.”

Upon the publication of the new plan the acting NIHE Chief Executive Mags Lightbody acknowledged the extent of the need in Londonderry and across Northern Ireland.

She said: “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to meet housing need, improve the housing stock and provide support for the most vulnerable in our community. It is essential that this work is delivered efficiently, effectively and prudently.

“One of the main issues we face is the demand for social housing and the number of people deemed to be in housing stress across Northern Ireland exceeds 20,000.

“Last year, through our regional services, we facilitated the completion of 1,967 much needed new social homes along with 1,299 starts on site. This year, in partnership with the housing associations, it is planned to start 2,000 new homes.”

Elsewhere in the new Londonderry plan it’s revealed that fewer people (57.9 per cent) own their own houses in Londonderry compared with Northern Ireland (67.5 per cent) generally.

It’s also revealed that more people (17.1 per cent) rent from private landlords in Londonderry than in Northern Ireland as a whole (15 per cent).

The report acknowledges that this sector is also likely to be affected by welfare reform.

“The private rented sector is popular, with high demand throughout the DCCA, with greatest demand for city centre properties. The number of private housing benefit claims decreased between March 2013 and March 2014, though the full effects of changes to housing benefit entitlement remain to be seen,” it states.