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Social tenants deserve to have voices heard

Your article on the future of the Redwoods development in Dunmurry fell short of the fair and balanced reporting to be expected in the Belfast Telegraph (News, May 7).

Clanmil Housing Association has been consulting extensively with Redwoods' residents on whether unsold apartment blocks that have been empty for some time could be used for social housing, to provide homes for some of the 21,000 people in Northern Ireland in acute housing need.

The article included disparaging assertions about social tenants, which were not questioned or challenged. Blanket claims were made about social housing worldwide, without any evidence being cited.

As with owner-occupiers and private tenants, the overwhelming majority of social tenants are considerate and law-abiding.

Research conducted by the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) in 2011 shows that around 90% of housing association tenants are satisfied, or highly-satisfied, with their home and the service from their landlord.

The vast majority of social tenants live in settled and harmonious communities, often in close proximity to owner-occupiers. Anti-social behaviour is rare and, when it does occur, social landlords work closely with the PSNI and other agencies to tackle it promptly.

The article also claimed - again without evidence - that bringing these empty homes back in to use will depress property prices.

In my view, the real threat to Redwoods' future would be leaving the apartment blocks empty and decaying for further years to come. Of course, Redwoods' residents have a right to be heard. But the Belfast Telegraph should also give a voice to some of the 21,000 people in acute housing need that would benefit from Clanmil's proposals.

CAMERON WATT

Chief executive (designate)

NI Federation of Housing Associations

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