Ex-housing manager: Plans will fall short of the mark

Michael Callaghan

A RECENTLY retired Housing Manager for Fermanagh claimed this week that plans drawn up by the Housing Minister, Nelson McCausland to streamline the housing executive will fall far short of the mark.

Michael Callaghan, who is a past President of  Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce for six years, and is now the Chamber’s Projects Coordinator, said the Minister’s decision to create Housing Associations to carry out landlord functions presently carried out by the Housing Executive, ‘does not fill us with great enthusiasm’.


Speaking for the Chamber, he said: “We only have to look at the performance of  the long-established Housing Associations new build programme to see that they are failing to meet new build housing need and, in doing so, failing to adequately support the local economy.

“If we are to take Fermanagh as an example: last year, Housing Associations built 39 new homes, and this year the projected target is 50.

“We remain to be convinced  that any new Housing Association will invest in housing to the same extent as the Housing Executive once did.”

Mr McCausland said his proposals for a fundamental review together with plans soon to be announced for a Northern Ireland housing strategy would bring housing in Northern Ireland forward for the next generation.

He said: “Housing is key to the future of Northern Ireland – not only in the quality of the homes we provide, but in supporting the economy, creating employment and creating a sustainable future for all of us.  I want to strengthen the future of housing in Northern Ireland, not diminish it.”

However, Mr Callaghan suggested that, if the Minister was serious about supporting the local economy and creating employment, he also needed to review his department’s private sector grants policy.

“Failure to do so will, in the long term, result in more unemployment, more contractors and suppliers going out of business and unfitness rising to an unacceptable level.”


But, the Minister was adamant this would not be the case.

He commented: “Every week,  I talk to people living in homes and communities where houses once filled with young families, are now empty and derelict, where repairs have not been completed and young people are striving to get on the property ladder.

“Good quality social housing can be the springboard to attract new families and breathe life back into these communities, while securing jobs for those working and living there.”

Mr McCausland said there had been much ‘ill-informed talk of privatisation of housing, higher rents and job losses’.

He stated: “With regard to rent levels, I do not believe that proposals will or should herald significant rent increases. A cornerstone of social housing is affordable rent levels and this will remain the case.”

Here, Mr Callaghan disagreed.

“By all means, go ahead and restructure, modernise, streamline and support the Housing Executive to face the tough economic challenges of the 21st century, but don’t lead tenants into believing that they will be better served by another landlord, because they won’t and, like it or not, rents will rise considerably.”

Meanwhile, the Minister admitted, ‘there is much more work to be done’. He said he would be reporting back to the Assembly and to the Northern Ireland public as more detailed plans take shape.

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