North Down MLA Alex Easton has called on the Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie, to act now over the plight of pensioners and the disabled currently living in "substandard” Bloomfield bungalows in Bangor.
The bungalows were scheduled for improvement as far back as 2003 and were built especially for pensioners and people with disabilities. However, local residents have been complaining for years about their run down state.
Mr Easton claims that despite this, the Minister and the Housing Executive “have dragged their feet over improving them”.
“At present there are people living in them who have been preparing every year since 2003 to move out of them to allow work to be done to improve them. However they have been continually let down by the Minister and her Department,” Mr Easton said.
“These bungalows are currently unfit to live in with pensioners and people with disabilities living in damp and cold. Despite this the Minister refuses to see them as a priority.
“Last summer the Minister came out to see the houses and meet the residents, but so far she has refused to act. In this day and age it is appalling that senior citizens and those with disabilities are being forced to live in such squalor. The Minister should act now.”
In a joint statement, the Department for Social Development and the Housing Executive said: “Between last year and this the housing budget suffered a loss of up to £200 million. Next year the Minister has been asked to find a further £30m in savings. As a member of the Social Development Committee, Mr Easton will be very well aware of the state of the housing budget.
“The outcome of this has ultimately affected the delivery of many housing programmes, including this Multi Element Improvement Scheme.
“Minister Ritchie visited the Bloomfield bungalows last year and asked the Housing Executive to consider some interim measures to improve the area. Work to replace a retaining wall at Ballyree Drive will begin this summer and the Housing Executive will continue to carry out a full maintenance programme on all properties until such times as the Multi Element Improvement works can begin.
“This year, despite the difficulties in the housing budget, we will invest nearly £170m maintaining our homes.
“The Housing Executive remains committed to carrying out improvements to the Bloomfield Bungalows and is working closely with the Department to identify how that can be delivered.”