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‘We just want to live in our own homes’

The CT has been inundated with calls from numerous ‘homeless’ people in Holywood dismayed that approximately 100 flats are liying vacant in the town despite a Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) waiting list of 307 households for the area.

In a story covered in our newspaper last month, we revealed that residents in the area want the future of the flats at West Green sorted out as soon as possible.

Louise Green, from Redburn Loughview Community Forum, said the flats have been vacant for over a year and resources were being used to keep the area tidy “instead of being used to clean up the inside of the flats to make them habitable again”.

Zoe Matthews, 25, lives in a Bangor hostel with her five-year-old son.

She has been on the waiting list since 2004 after she had to leave her private rental home when the landlord told her he needed to move back in.

After having to cut her working hours so she would be able to get her son to and from school, she has no family support and is unable to live with her mother because of illness.

“The stress is unbelievable at the moment because I have only been able to get this hostel in Kilcooley yet I work in Dundonald and my son goes to school in Holywood,” she said.

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“Every day I travel to Holywood to leave my son off at school, then make my way to work in Dundonald.

“I have had to cut my hours as I didn’t have the time to get my son to school, get to work, then collect him again.”

She continued: “I really want to live in Holywood as it would make things more bearable plus I’d be close to my mum if there was an emergency.

“This is all having a severe effect on our lives and in fact my son is starting to suffer in school with behaviour problems.”

Richard Cooling, 20, has been on the waiting list since 2008 and was recently made unemployed. Previously in the army, he is currently living with his aunt, uncle and their two children in a three bedroom house. Up until recently his sister was living there but she was allocated a place in east Belfast after falling pregnant.

“I have been offered two properties in east Belfast but to be honest the first one was a dump,” he said.

“The second home I was offered I didn’t go and view because I visited the site one particular day at 11am and 5pm and there was music blaring from neighbouring properties at both times.

“It isn’t so much that it is difficult for me, it’s my aunt’s family who suffer because she has two kids who like sleeping on their own but they have to share because I am here.”

Kim Thomason, 50, is currently living in her mother’s home with her brother.

With their mother in a nursing home, her brother can’t afford to keep up the payments on the house and is being forced to sell it.

Kim said she has been on the Housing Executive waiting list since March.

“I'm a priority for the Housing Exective but they say there is no housing available for people in Holywood. When I mentioned the flats at West Green they knew nothing about it,” she said.

“It’s really difficult not having your own home. I'm disabled and have a daughter coming to live with me from England shortly but I want to be able to put her up in my own home. There is no room for her here.”

Cheryl Moody, 27, is currently living in a three bedroom house with her mum, dad, sister, disabled half-brother and three foster children.

She has been on the Housing Executive waiting list for three years.

With the majority of her family living in Holywood, Cheryl said she had spent “half her life” there.

“I simply can’t afford to rent privately and living at my parents’ at my age, with all these other people who need her more, is placing a great burden on my mum,” she said.

“It must be so hard and stressful for her, so to be able to move out and get my own place would lighten the load on her.”

Louise Green said local people wanted the flats demolished and social housing erected in their place.

In the meantime, however, she said there was a pressing need to renovate and make them habitable again until the permanant future of the flats is decided by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and NIHE.

A spokesman for DSD recently confirmed that it was “finalising its Economic Appraisal and is at an advanced stage. An announcement on the future of Loughview flats will be made in due course”.

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