Senior staff met Belfast City Council recently for an update on our 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.
We had planned to invest £227 million across all improvement and maintenance activities in our stock in 2020/21; there remains however ongoing uncertainties on the type and level of stock investment that can be delivered this year.
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During 2019/20, we delivered significant housing investment for a wide range of services, and the public sector housing investment totalled £117m for Belfast. This includes grant aid to Housing Associations for the building and rental of new houses.
Our staff gave a presentation on its Housing Investment Plan (HIP) to local Councillors, during which it highlighted many of the organisation’s achievements made over the past year.
We channelled almost £73m into services to help the most vulnerable through our Supporting People Programme and a further £12.6m though its 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 £15.6m 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 Belfast City Council, Clark Bailie, our 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 Belfast City 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 is a priority. 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, 319 new homes were built throughout Belfast.
We endeavour to support the most vulnerable members of society through its Supporting People Programme.
In 2019/20, we invested almost £22m for housing support services. £21.5m has been approved for 2020/21.
We currently fund 213 accommodation based services for almost 4,541 service users in Belfast as well as 16 floating support services for 1,009 service users.
We continue 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 155 disabled facilities grants, 157 repair and 15 renovation grants totalling £1.86m.
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 Aengus Hannaway said:
“We are committed to investing in Belfast to improve the lives of people in our community.”
“Our Belfast 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.”
“As always, our thanks are extended to the Councillors and Officers of the City 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.”