The Housing Executive met Derry City & Strabane District Council on Tuesday 3rd November for an update on the housing body’s 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.
Lockdown measures put in place by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic meant the suspension of all but emergency and statutory maintenance activities in March 2020. The Housing Executive had planned to invest £227 million across all improvement and maintenance activities in its stock in 2020/21; there remains however ongoing uncertainties on the type and level of stock investment that can be delivered this year.
During 2019/20, the Housing Executive delivered significant housing investment for a wide range of services, and the public sector housing investment totalled £38.15m for Derry City & Strabane. This includes grant aid to Housing Associations for the building and rental of new houses.
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The Housing Executive gave a presentation on its Housing Investment Plan (HIP) to local Councillors, during which it highlighted many of the organisation’s achievements over the past year.
The Housing Executive channelled some £72m into services to help the most vulnerable through its Supporting People Programme across Northern Ireland, and a further £12.6m though it’s homelessness programme.
In addition, 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.
Homeowners and private landlords also received considerable support, with £15.61 spent through home improvement grants and £13.7m in tackling fuel poverty through the Affordable Warmth and Boiler Replacement Schemes.
Speaking at the Presentation to Derry City & Strabane District Council, Clarke Bailie, the Housing Executive’s Chief Executive, 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 Derry City & Strabane District 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 its housing stock is a priority for the Housing Executive. Lockdown measures put in place by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic however saw the suspension of all but emergency and statutory maintenance activities in March 2020. From June 2020 works recommenced to external areas and vacant properties, but there remains uncertainty on the type and level of stock investment that can be delivered this year. Stakeholders will be updated as the situation progresses.
During 2019/20, in partnership with housing associations, 505 new homes were built throughout the council area.
The Housing Executive endeavours to support the most vulnerable members of society through its Supporting People Programme. In 2019/20, the Housing Executive invested £8.7m for housing support services. £8.7m has been approved for 2020/21.
The Housing Executive currently funds 70 accommodation based services for almost 1,366 service users in the Derry City & Strabane District Council area as well as 12 floating support services for 496 service users.
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, it approved 188 disabled facilities grants and a number of repair and renovation grants totalling £2.79m.
A summary document outlining the work of the Housing Executive during the global pandemic was also provided, it outlines the challenges we have faced and our response to those challenges.
Speaking at the presentation, the Housing Executive’s North Regional Manager, Frank O’Connor, said:
“Our Derry City & Strabane teams continue 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 an effective and efficient service.”
“We are committed to investing in the Derry City & Strabane area, to improve the lives of people in our community.”
“My thanks are extended to the Councillors and Officers of Derry City & 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.”