Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Fury after Nelson McCausland says there's no need for more Derry housing funds

Nelson McCausland

Claims by Stormont minister Nelson McCausland that there is no need for more public housing funding in Londonderry have been branded “crazy”.

The Social Development Minister was warned that there were cases of two and three families in the city sharing single homes because of a massive public housing shortage.

The Housing Executive’s own west area manager Sean Mackie agreed with Derry City Councillors that plans for the next three years would not meet housing need.

The issue was raised after a Housing Executive presentation at yesterday’s meeting of the Regional Services Committee.

It emerged at the meeting that Mr McCausland had refused a recent appeal by Derry City Council for additional funds for the Housing Executive to build more social housing in the city.

A letter signed by his private secretary Barbara McConaghie claimed the city has “benefited significantly” over the last few years from investment in new social housing “with well over the target of social housing units started”.

However the latest figures reveal that the number of families and single people on waiting lists has smashed the 3,000 mark.

As of this week, there are 3,187 applicants waiting to be housed, up 425 from May this year alone.

The number of new social houses due to be built over the next three years in Derry meanwhile stands at 551.

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan said: “We get a letter back from the minister’s secretary and to me it was disgraceful.

“I have people going into their fourth Christmas in temporary accommodation.”

SDLP Councillor John Tierney was also scathing, branding the claims in the letter that there were sufficient housing planned to meet targets “crazy”.

NIHE manager Mr Mackie, who retires at the end of this month, said the organisation “accepts we are not building enough houses”.

The minister’s letter also referred to Derry City Council in the address and throughout as “City Council of Londonderry”.

A spokesman for the DSD said the ‘City Council of Londonderry’ was the minister’s preference for any correspondence from himself or his private office.

He added that officials would reply using whatever title the person sending the letter had used.

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