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Billy Cameron: Champion of social housing in Northern Ireland

 

Billy Cameron, who has died aged 80, was a driving force in social housing throughout Northern Ireland for more than five decades.

He died peacefully at his home in Bangor on May 29 following a short illness.

Born on October 3, 1936, Mr Cameron grew up in east Belfast.

Never forgetting his roots or the impact of a close-knit community, he went on to pursue a lifelong career in social housing.

Having qualified as a surveyor, Mr Cameron began working with the Northern Ireland Housing Trust in 1958, before transferring into the Housing Executive in 1971.

As regional controller Mr Cameron oversaw the large scale redevelopment of social housing in Belfast, which was instrumental in changing the face of the city and improving the quality of life for generations of tenants.

In 1985 Mr Cameron was appointed director of operations and deputy chief executive, where he modernised the homeless applicant service for Northern Ireland and oversaw the rollout of the Housing Executive's first integrated IT system.

He was also responsible for the clean-up operations after bomb attacks and civil unrest.

In 1997 Mr Cameron was appointed acting chief executive of the Housing Executive, which saw him implement a new organisational structure, a programme of further modernisation and rollout a range of community involvement forums.

In recognition of Mr Cameron's contribution to social housing in Northern Ireland, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 1995.

Following his retirement from the Housing Executive, Mr Cameron joined the board of Fold Housing Association, taking up the role of chairman in 2000. A fervent champion of older people's causes, especially those involving the frail and elderly and those with dementia, Mr Cameron fought long and hard against plans to cut vital funding which enabled older people to live independently.

Mr Cameron also served as a council member of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, as well as a board member of Enterprise Ulster

He was always proud of his east Belfast roots and attributed his own work ethic to that of his father, who worked as a coal lorry driver.

Mr Cameron attended East Bread Street Primary School and Annadale Grammar School. It was around this time he met his future wife Jean.

They married in 1959 and had two children, Philip and Stephen, and four grandchildren.

Away from housing, Mr Cameron's other great passions included football, rugby and music.

He enjoyed regular trips to the Emirates and Ravenhill grounds, following the highs and lows of Arsenal and Ulster respectively.

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