· Fiona McGrath, Head of Place Shaping Belfast Region
· Ailbhe Hickey, Acting AD Land & Regeneration
· Jennifer Hawthorne, Regional Manager, Belfast Region
The Chairperson introduced Ms. F. McGrath, Head of Place Shaping, Belfast Region, and Ms. J. Hawthorne, Regional Manager, Belfast Region, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting.
Ms. McGrath provided a presentation to update the Committee on the City Centre Latent Demand Waiting List. She advised that this indicated that there was a high demand for social housing and highlighted the pending development opportunities within the City Centre. Ms. McGrath then provided an update in relation to the existing Common Landlord Areas (CLAs).
She highlighted that, as of March 2020, the Belfast Waiting list was 10,819, with 8,413 of the applicants in housing stress. She informed the Committee that, in relation to the Current Social Housing Programme: 175 homes had been completed since March 20 and 962 homes were currently on site.
She explained the drivers for change and how they linked with Council objectives such as the Belfast Agenda’s growth in population target and the Council’s Local Development Plan ambition of 20% affordable housing. She highlighted the potential of continuing to work with the wider public sector, including Belfast City Council, to identify public sector land opportunities. She advised that the NIHE post Covid-19 recovery would focus on housing opportunities to include City Centre living, also incorporating apartment living as part of mixed use and mixed tenure schemes.
She provided information on existing CLA’s and the City Centre Latent Demand Test and highlighted that, in March, all applicants and transfers had been written to, in order to ascertain expressions of interest in city centre living. An update was provided in relation to the level of interest received. Ms McGrath highlighted that the city centre latent demand list would not replace an option for housing in other areas, rather be an additional option. She explained that applicants could continue to register an interest in City Centre Living and they would be written to again as developments come forward.
In relation to the City Centre Schemes, she reminded the Committee that major new developments were proposed including Sirocco/Waterside, Tribeca and Council/DfC lands.
Ms. McGrath summarised the Shared Future ‘Housing for All’ work which had been undertaken by the NIHE, which included a five Year Good Relations Plan and Good Neighbour Agreements. She pointed out that allocations were still assigned to those applicants with the highest points.
She advised that a list showing the current social housing programme had also been issued to the Committee for information.
Ms. J. Hawthorne provided an overview of the repairs and maintenance that had been undertaken in Belfast.
She advised that repairs on NIHE properties had continued throughout the Pandemic and they had received 10% less calls for response maintenance repairs. She informed the Committee that there was a backlog in relation to change in tenancy repairs and explained that supply issues had added to the delays, however, she pointed out that contractors had now been asked to do additional work.
In regards to planned maintenance, she explained that the work plan had been suspended from March and resumed in August which included plans for 1500 bathrooms/kitchen replacements in Belfast, 1500 properties to be double glazed and the NIHE intended to deliver the work by the end of the financial year.
During discussion, Members highlighted the importance of Shared Space Housing and objective need. Ms. Hawthorne explained that objective need was enshrined in the Statutory Housing Selection Scheme, in that the NIHE was committed to allocate all housing on the basis of need.
In response to a Members question regarding the recent Housing Statement by the Minister for Communities, in relation to building more social homes, Ms. McGrath advised that the NIHE was keen to start building again and it would also still work closely with Housing Associations to provide for such a programme.
The representative’s answered a range of questions in relation to housing demand, quota guidelines, city centre living, green space, timeframe for repair back log and damp issues, retrofit of existing stock, carbon efficiencies, rent prices in the city centre, space standard and apartment living, land availability, support of sustainable transport.
In regard to the changes to the housing selection scheme and its review, Ms. Hawthorne advised that an announcement by the Department for Communities was imminent.
One Member questioned what percentage of the Latent Demand Waiting List were Wheelchair needs groups, Ms McGrath advised that she would respond with figures in due course. Ms. Hawthorne provided further information on the work of the Complex Needs Officer who dealt with the welfare adaptation requirements for individual households.
The Committee noted the contents of the presentation by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive with regard to the establishment of a new City Centre Waiting List, together with anupdate on their Housing Programme and their repairs backlog and retrofit programme and