Senior staff met Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council for an update onour plans for the next year and to report on last year’s investment.
This has been an unprecedented year for the Housing Executive with the COVID-19 outbreak making it necessary for us to make changes to the way services were delivered to ensure the safety of customers and staff.
Despite the lockdown measures put in place by the Government we were able to offer services and invest as below.
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During 2019/20 however, across Northern Ireland there was a large planned maintenance programme, with work undertaken at 17,147 homes; a direct investment of £77.7m to these homes.
There were 320,523 response maintenance repairs carried out at a budgetary cost of £52.7m in 2019/20.
In addition, we channelled some £72m into services to help the most vulnerable through our Supporting People Programme and a further £12.6m though our Homelessness Programme.
Homeowners and private landlords also received considerable support, with £15.6m spent through home improvement grants and £13.7m in tackling fuel poverty through the Affordable Warmth and Boiler Replacement Schemes.
Our staff gave a presentation on the Housing Investment Plan (HIP) to local Councillors, during which it highlighted many of the organisation’s achievements made over the past year.
Speaking at the Presentation to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, Colm McQuillan, our Director of Housing Services, said: “2020 has been an unprecedented year for everyone.
“The Housing Executive has followed government advice on the management of the coronavirus outbreak and we have made changes in the way we deliver our services.
“These changes are intended to protect our staff and customers while ensuring that we continue to provide key essential services.
“Our Housing Investment Plan is developed as a comprehensive conversation piece for the whole Northern Ireland housing sector and is informed by a range of stakeholders.
“We have a good working relationship with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and there is a lot of engagement on priorities.
“As the strategic housing authority for Northern Ireland, we have prepared this Housing Investment Plan to inform the Community Planning Partnership on the state of the housing market; on housing needs; the policy priorities and public sector investment.
“While we are still unsure what our programmes will look like over the coming year, we continue to make plans for when we can commence all work.
“There remains a lot of work to be done to meet housing need, to improve housing stock and to 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.”
Maintaining our housing stock remains a priority. The COVID-19 pandemic however posed many challenges, including office closures, delayed new build, and the suspension of all but emergency maintenance.
A summary document outlining our work during the global pandemic was released to the council on the night of the meeting; it outlines the challenges faced and the response to those challenges.
During 2019/20, we delivered significant housing investment for a wide range of services, and the public sector housing investment totalled £27.99m for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon. This includes grant aid to Housing Associations for the building and rental of new houses.
We endeavour to support the most vulnerable members of society through our Supporting People Programme.
In 2019/20, we invested £4.45m for housing support services. £4.57m has been approved for 2020/21.
We currently fund 61 accommodation based services for 1,036 service users in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area as well as 6 floating support services for 275 service users.
During 2019/20, in partnership with housing associations, 25 new homes were built throughout the borough.
The Housing Executive continues to contribute to the private sector through a variety of grants to help adapt homes and to support people living in their own home, for longer.
Last year, we approved 80 disabled facilities grants and a number of repair and renovation grants totalling £995k.
Speaking at the Presentation, South Regional Manager, Jonathan Blease said: “Our local office continues to provide a high quality, dedicated housing service to the area, which has been even more difficult during the lockdown period.”
“Working alongside our Customer Services Unit, Accounts and Housing Benefit teams, we strive to continue to provide our tenants and the wider community with assistance and advice, and with housing services.
“We are committed to investing in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area, to improve the lives of people in our community.”
“My thanks are extended to the Councillors and Officers of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough 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.”