Armagh District Housing Plan launched
Published: Wed, 15 Jun 2011
It is a story of good and bad news as we commence our annual round of consultations with local district councils.
Despite the difficult economic situation, a record 2,418 social housing units were started last year. The commencement of 302 properties in rural areas was the highest rural outturn in over ten years. However, with reducing levels of funding for new housing in the coming years, the target for the year ahead will only be 1,400 starts and the budget for the succeeding two years are likely to see further reductions.
New figures on homelessness show an unwelcome rise of 5.3%, with 10,443 applicants having been accepted as homeless over the past year. Significantly there has also been an increase in those who have lost their rented accommodation.
Acting Director of Housing and Regeneration, Dr. John McPeake, said, “The record number of new homes started is a considerable achievement, but given the current overall housing situation in Northern Ireland the full benefits may not be immediately evident in terms of a reduced waiting list. In terms of our own houses, we remain limited in the number of improvements that we will carry out, yet the recent severe winter weather highlighted the need to invest in our stock and ensure our houses are as warm and energy efficient as possible. We therefore will continue to robustly make the case for investment across all tenures and look to see how this might be achieved during a period when government has limited resources.”
“The ongoing economic climate continues to have an impact on the entire public sector and recent budgets signal continuing reductions in public expenditure, especially in capital projects, for the foreseeable future. In addition the depressed property market has a direct effect on the amount of income that we can try to raise from selling our houses and land. However, it is essential that decades of progress are not lost.”
“2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, with a proud history of fairness, achievement, delivery and progress. The Housing Executive is working to serve the community and will continue to move forward and meet the difficult housing challenges which are ahead of us. We will work with our elected representatives and the wider community to ensure that good quality housing for everyone remains a priority.”
In Armagh City & District in the past year (2010/2011), we spent £4.909 million. Our projected investment for 2011/2012 is £5.968 million.
Referring specifically to our investment in Armagh in 2010/11 South Area Manager Lorraine Campbell said, “Last year the Housing Executive,
- spent over £1m on planned improvements and maintenance to our stock in Armagh and a further £1.1m on response maintenance;
- invested £1.435 million to assist vulnerable people through the Supporting People programme. There are currently 18 supported housing accommodation based schemes in the area;
- provided over £951k on grant aid to improve housing conditions in the private sector;
- invested £219,670 to adapt 27 of our homes in the area;
- invested £1.82m through Grounds Maintenance works;
- commenced new build work to the value of £4.806 million;
- worked with 19 community groups in the area."
Outlining our agenda in Armagh for the coming year Lorraine Campbell commented on the following key areas:
Housing waiting list
“The number of applicants in housing stress at the end of 2010 was 290 (37% of the waiting list) compared to 276 at the same point in the previous year. Single person households continue to dominate the waiting list, accounting for 55% of all applicants in housing stress.”
“Last year we allocated 207 social sector homes to waiting list applicants, passing the 200 mark for only the second time since 2006”
New social housing
“This year’s new build programme comprises 54 units across 5 schemes.”
“The number of homeless people stood at 122 in March 2009, an increase from 100 the previous year, with 43% of those accepted as homeless being single people.”
“The Housing Executive will continue to work hard to provide services to support those faced with homelessness in Armagh with 29 placements made into temporary accommodation during 2010/11 (a slight increase over the 2009/10 figure).”
Supporting people to live independently
“We spent approximately £1.43 million during 2010/11 providing assistance to vulnerable people through Supporting People services. A similar level of funding has been budgeted for 2011/12. This is especially important for older people and people with disabilities. The existing funding delivers 18 supported housing accommodation-based schemes in the Armagh area.”
Maintaining our homes
“Despite pressures on our funding the Housing Executive will continue to provide its day-to-day maintenance service. Housing Executive tenants in Armagh will see this service protected in line with their conditions of tenancy. In 2010/11 work is planned to carry out planned maintenance and improvements to 301 Housing Executive properties in the Armagh District.”
Our empty homes
“The Housing Executive continues to place high importance on reducing the number of empty properties within the Armagh District. We are also beginning pilot schemes of choice-based lettings for difficult to let properties in five districts where properties have been identified as void with no prospective tenants available. The number of empty homes stood at 18 at the end of March 2011.”
Grants improving private homes
“In the past year we have had to limit private sector grants to protect the Statutory Disabled Facilities Grants and Repair Grants. In 2010-11 a total of 71 grants were completed with a further 72 grants being approved. We have allocated a further £0.632 million for grants in Armagh in the coming year. “
Building stronger communities
“The Armagh Housing Community Network and the 19 local community and residents groups are doing valuable work reviewing and improving housing services for local people. Local staff work diligently with residents and others to promote and encourage safer, settled and inclusive housing areas within the Armagh area.”
Improving public housing services
“Our Armagh office continues to provide dedicated housing services. Staff here are ably assisted by the Customer Services Units, located in Craigavon which provides Repairs, Accounts and Housing Benefits services.”
Lorraine Campbell concluded by saying, “I would like to extend my thanks to the Councillors and Officers of Armagh City and District Council for their support over the past year. The District Manager, staff and I look forward to continuing to build on the good working relationship we have over the coming year and bringing this housing plan to fruition.”