Housing Stock Transfer vote – another resounding victory for residents and NIPSA in the fight to keep housing public as residents overwhelming vote No, by a massive 88%, rejecting attempts to transfer their homes to a housing association.
The Department for Communities (DfC) was dealt what is likely to be a fatal blow to its obsession with transferring Northern Ireland Housing Executive homes to Housing Associations, which are not accountable to the general public, government Ministers or the Assembly.
Paddy Mackel, NIPSA Official with responsibility for Housing matters explained:
“For the second time in 13 months, local residents, this time in the Ballee Estate Ballymena, have voted overwhelmingly to reject the Department’s attempts to remove their homes from the Housing Executive stock. In this latest vote 88% of residents voted emphatically to reject the transfer proposal. This follows the equally resounding NO vote last summer by local residents in The Grange, Ballyclare. The people have spoken loudly and clearly. They wish to remain with the NIHE.”
The Stock Transfer Programme was initiated several years ago by a previous Government Minister who seemed intent on dismantling the Housing Executive in its entirety. This is a failed programme based on a largely discredited similar arrangement in England and Wales. When the Assembly was suspended in early 2017, NIPSA wrote to the Department seeking their agreement not to proceed with any further votes of residents given the lack of Ministerial direction. The Department for Communities refused and pushed ahead without Ministerial approval with 2 very costly bidding processes in an attempt to convince residents to transfer from the Housing Executive.
Paddy Mackel continued:
“This has been a costly exercise for the DfC, for the NIHE and for Housing Associations. It is a waste of limited public resources. Given the irrefutable rejection on 2 occasions by local citizens, this stock transfer programme should now be binned. It is time now to change direction and concentrate on securing the right to borrow for the Housing Executive to commence an ambitious programme of building public houses and updating and maintaining existing homes”.
“NIPSA also calls on all political parties to voice their support for a new housing initiative to tackle the growing housing crisis, to offer hope to the 40,000 on the housing waiting lists, 20,000 in housing stress and more than 10,000 officially declared homeless. With a real commitment from government thousands of much needed construction jobs and hundreds of apprenticeships for young people could be created, which would transform housing and alleviate the agony for those languishing on housing waiting lists”.
“Residents in Ballee, Ballymena have spoken, echoing the voice of their neighbours in Ballyclare. That is NO to Stock Transfer, YES to the NIHE and YES to much needed repairs. There is no ambiguity. The Department must now listen and change direction. If not, should they continue with this waste of public money, we will follow them to their next location, work with the community and their representatives and deliver another NO vote. The time for a change of direction is now”.