Residents of the Rockview area of south Belfast have criticised the DSD and Housing Executive for failing to make the site of demolished houses safe.
They also claim bricks are being stripped from remaining houses adjoining people’s homes.
The NIHE week says it handed over possession of the site to the relevant contractor on Thursday, June 9. “The contractor is proceeding with the demolition and clearance of the site in line with Health & Safety legislation and has advised that the works will be completed during the week commencing 20th June,” said a spokesperson.
“The contractor continues to liaise with the local community and its representatives, and we would urge local residents to stay away from the site while the work is ongoing.”
Blackstaff Community Development Association says people have been stealing bricks from the demolished houses and a trade has grown up around reclaimed Belfast bricks which retail for between 50pence to £1.
Groups of people are sifting through piles of rubble to steal the bricks and sell them on to dealers for allegedly £100 a pallet.
The Housing Executive said those involved have also targeted houses which are not yet due for demolition — regardless of whether adjacent homes are still being lived in.
A spokesperson from the Northern Ireland Housing Association said: “Preventing vandalism in Urban Renewal Areas continues to be a problem.
“In recent years “brick bandits” have established a trade in stealing the red bricks and selling them on. While the Housing Executive takes steps to make vacant houses as secure as possible “brick bandits” strip houses of their bricks regardless of whether adjacent homes are still being lived in.
“We would call on those responsible for this wanton vandalism to stop immediately as they are putting lives at risk. We would also encourage residents to report incidents of vandalism to their local District Office or the PSNI so that appropriate action can be taken against those responsible.”
Billy Dickson of the Blackstaff Community Development Association, said: “Things have improved, there is a willingness from the Housing Executive and the DSD and the local community to make things better.
“I think if it wasn’t for the publicity from the BBC and the Community Telegraph that the whole area would have looked like a blitz scene.
“The local community want to do things properly but it’s up to the DSD and NIHE to make sure things are done the way they should be.”
“The people who were taking bricks though, they don’t like being called ‘brick bandits’,” added Mr Dickson.
“From their point of view they aren’t doing anyone any harm and it is a minority of them who have made people’s lives hell by taking bricks from houses that still have people in them.”