April 12 In the Press

Housing crisis is looming as ICTU warns against privatisation of NIHE portfolio

By Eleanor McGillie

THE President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) says Northern Ireland is on the verge of a housing crisis if plans continue to transfer more and more Housing Executive stock to the voluntary sector.

Brian Campfield, who was speaking at the Biennial Conference in Derry today (TUES), said if the Housing Executive sells its portfolio of houses, then people would no longer be able to afford private rents and as a result, education and health would also suffer and jobs would be lost.

Recent statistics reveal a four per cent increase in homelessness in the province with almost 20,000 people being declared as homeless.

These figures are expected to rise if the Housing Executive continues ahead with plans to transfer its housing portfolio to private housing associations.

Warning against such a move is the ICTU whose members today (TUES) spoke about the detrimental effects this would have on working class people in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to 220 delegates representing 215,000 members, Mr Campfield said: “High quality housing for all is at the heart of a decent society and over the last 40 years the Housing Executive has made tremendous advances in tackling homelessness, overcrowding and chronic disrepair. This in turn has contributed to better health and education outcomes for people in Northern Ireland.

“All of this good work will be undone if stock transfer plans go ahead which will lead to the virtual destruction of the NIHE as a comprehensive housing authority.”

Mr Campfield said the recession has inevitably meant that less and less people can afford to buy their own homes.

He added: “We are now faced with an attempt to transfer the remaining public housing stock to housing associations. Don’t get me wrong, there has, since their formation, been a place for housing associations in making an important contribution to meeting housing need. But, we are now faced with a situation where these bodies, rather than being tasked with fulfilling their original remit, are being lined up to take total responsibility for social housing in Northern Ireland.

“This process of stock transfer, virtually complete in Britain, has started in earnest in Northern Ireland and it was in Belfast, in the Rinmore estate, that the first transfer has taken place.

“Because NIHE tenants have to be balloted on specific transfers the choice has been put to them – they could either vote to remain with the NIHE, in which case homes will not be renovated and repairs will be put on the long finger, or tenants can agree to transfer and get the work done promptly.”

Mr Campfield said the state is essentially washing its hands of its responsibility for social housing provision which he says makes it easier for another policy objective to be achieved.

The motion which was heard during the morning session of today’s conference urged delegates to join together to do their utmost to “prevent this piece of political vandalism”.

Mr Campfield added that the Housing Executive isn’t perfect but its record stands for itself.

He said: “The ICTU demands that a halt is called to the strangulation and the dismantling of the Housing Executive.”

 

ENDS:

NOTES TO EDITOR:

  • Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisations for trade unions on the island of Ireland. Congress is the largest civil society organisation in Ireland. It is the apex body representing 750,000 workers affiliated through 64 trade unions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The organisation is required, through its mission statement, to strive to achieve economic development, social cohesion and justice by upholding the values of solidarity, fairness and equality.
  • The Northern Ireland Committee (NIC) of the ICTU is the representative body for 34 trade unions with over 215,000 members across Northern Ireland. In membership terms it is the largest civil society organisation in Northern Ireland. Information on the NIC is available on www.ictuni.org
  • For further information please contact Eleanor McGillie from MGMPR Ltd on 07709805379 or John O’Farrell, Communications Officer on 07808582546
  • Photography by Kevin Cooper
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