15/06/2011

Social Housing 'Strong' Despite Suspensions

The provision of social housing has been unaffected by the suspension of seven registered housing associations.

While they are all members of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), the organisation itself has said developments will continue.

In 2010-11 NIFHA's developing registered housing association members had a record start figure of 2,418, a statement has claimed.

NIFHA said they collectively invested £100m of private funds in the Social Housing Development Programme and conservatively estimate the additional impact of their development work on Northern Ireland's economy will be in excess of £650m with over 1,000 much needed jobs being sustained within the construction industry.

That positive approach is despite official concerns being raised during recent inspections.

These resulted in the housing associations pledging to be "committed to working with the Department for Social Development to resolve the challenges".

"In the meantime the programme is being delivered," an association statement insisted.

"NIFHA's concerns lies with the prevailing economic situation," a spokesperson continued.
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"Severe budget cuts, slashed rates of capital subsidy and tighter private borrowing conditions will be the main factors which impact on the delivery of the Social Housing Development Programme."

Chris Williamson, NIFHA's Chief Executive commented: "Our sector is strong, sound and resilient.

"We have shown there has been no impact on the delivery of the overall social housing development programme as a result of the DSD suspensions.

"Our members look forward to delivering homes, sustaining communities and supporting Northern Ireland plc."

Earlier this week, the seven housing associations were told to stop building homes after the Stormont Department of Social Development found they failed to meet certain standards despite housing associations being responsible for building and maintaining social housing.

Watchdog

The development is not new as, last July, the performance of 14 out of Northern Ireland's 33 housing associations was branded "unacceptable" by the Audit Office.

It found that six could not apply for grants to fund new schemes.

Each of the bodies took over from the NI Housing Executive to fill the role of building and maintaining social housing projects.

In 2009, they received £155m from the Department of Social Development to deliver house-building targets.

But they have been criticised over finance, corporate governance, property management and property development.

(GK/BMcC)

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