Minister makes big freeze pledges
Problems experienced during last year's big freeze should not recur this winter, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has said.
Thousands of houses were damaged during a thaw which followed last winter's severe weather, many by flooding following burst pipes.
The bill for the Housing Executive, which is responsible for social housing across Northern Ireland, was estimated at around £10 million.
Mr McCausland, who is responsible for the Housing Executive, told the Assembly on Monday: "I believe we have learned the lessons from that period of severe weather last year and I have ensured that social landlords have in place effective emergency and continuity planning arrangements that are fit for purpose.
"Tenants must not have to go through a repeat of the problems that occurred last year.
"Following in-depth reviews of all that happened and the subsequent revisions to the emergency planning arrangements, I believe that the measures now in place should ensure that all relevant agencies are fully prepared should we experience another severe winter and that tenants will receive the services they are entitled too."
Sinn Fein had criticised former social development minister Alex Attwood for not acting quickly enough to help people whose homes were damaged.
Stewart Cuddy, chief executive of the 90,000-property Housing Executive, said it had placed 30,000 orders for repairs with contractors.
Mr McCausland added: "I also want to ensure that social homes are energy efficient and, in order to assist tenants in heating their homes effectively, I am working with the Housing Executive to develop a programme that will see all properties double-glazed as soon as possible.
"In the interim, I have already bid for additional funding in the October monitoring round to enable the Housing Executive to replace single-glazed windows with double glazing and additional insulation measures to tackle the thermal efficiency of individual homes."