The cost of improving Northern Ireland’s social housing stock has soared to £1bn, it has been revealed.
And Housing Executive (HE) chiefs believe that figure may well be an underestimate.
The £1bn bill emerged, however, as the level of ‘housing unfitness’ in the province has increased for the first time in 40 years.
An Assembly committee has been told the proportion of unfit houses has almost doubled from 2.4% in 2009 to 4.6%.
Yet the housing body’s budget has been severely slashed — from an annual £63m for stock improvement five years ago to just £5m a year in the Executive’s current four-year programme.
The £1bn figure, in the HE’s internal maintenance investment strategy, was disclosed to the Social Development Committee which monitors minister Nelson McCausland and his department.
HE chief executive John McPeake said: “That may actually be an understatement, because we have significant problems with fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, and there is no doubt that there will be major pressure to retrofit energy-related solutions to the social housing stock.”
The £1bn total is also, he said, notwithstanding the “very welcome” additional funds minister McCausland has allocated for double glazing of the entire HE stock.
But Mr McPeake added: “The ability of the Housing Executive to invest in the improvement of its own housing stock is significantly reduced because of changes in the funding that is available in the public service, and also because of the collapse of capital receipts in the land and property market.
“The amount of money we have available to invest in the improvement of our stock is very substantially reduced. It is very clear that we cannot fund the unimproved part of our stock from within existing arrangements.”
MLAs on the committee were also warned of falling fitness levels in housing for the first time since the early 1970s.
Stewart Cuddy, director of housing and regeneration, said: “The previous house condition survey in 2009 indicated that unfitness was at 2.4%. It has now gone up to 4.6%.”
The Department for Social Development had no immediate comment.
- Housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland have increased to 40,000.
- Of those 20,000 are defined as being in ‘priority housing need’.
- Yet the Budget for the Housing Executive for improving its stock has been cut from a yearly £69m to just £5m over the last five years.