Belfast Telegraph

Housing faces ‘painful’ cuts

by Natalie Irvine

Belfast City councillors have been warned that “painful decisions” lie ahead to deal with those most in need of housing.

Speaking on the housing budget at the annual presentation of the District Housing Plan to the council, on Tuesday August 10, the Housing Executive’s chief executive, Paddy McIntyre, forewarned next year’s finances will be dealt a blow by economic pressures.

Mr McIntyre said: “We already know that the new coalition Government plans to make substantial and unprecedented cuts to public spending. Following on from this the Northern Ireland Executive will have no option but to make some very difficult and painful decisions.

“We will continue to make the case for continued investment in housing but at the same time we have to be realistic in our expectations and what we can hope to deliver. All of us understand the hardship experienced by families who are waiting for a home of their own.

“The Housing Executive’s focus is to prioritise its resources to those in greatest need. We have made new housing our top priority and concentrated our funding on meeting housing need.

“We need to ensure that those most at risk in our society are supported and we are channelling our resources to deliver the best results possible. But as a public body we must live within our means.”

Mr McIntyre admitted the £108m projected spend allocated is “somewhat less than last year”.

Maurice Johnston, the Housing Executive’s Belfast area manager, said: “Our main priority is to provide accommodation for those in housing need in the city. The housing waiting list for Belfast remains high with 5,682 households in housing stress.

“In order to tackle this need we have an active new build programme and in Belfast 623 new homes were provided last year.

“Over 600 new homes are programmed to be provided through this year’s programme. Another tool in tackling need is to bring empty Housing Executive homes back into use.

“Over the past year we have reduced the number of our empty houses by a third from the previous year.

“Last year the number of people found to be homeless in Belfast increased to 2,707.”

He added: “The Housing Executive will continue to work hard to provide services to support those faced with homelessness in Belfast.”

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