Following a resounding rejection by residents in The Grange, Ballyclare a fundamental rethink of the Department for Community’s housing strategy is now required asserted Paddy Mackel, NIPSA Official with responsibility for Housing issues.

Commenting on the overwhelming result which has stopped in its tracks the effort by successive Ministers to dismantle the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and transfer its stock to Housing Associations Paddy Mackel said:

“NIPSA has fought for the last number of years against this stock transfer agenda. We have lobbied politicians, community leaders and most importantly engaged directly with local residents in their own community. We have presented details evidence to challenge the political agenda of privatisation of the Housing Executive and its homes. We have argued that another way is possible.

“The result of the ballot of residents in The Grange estate, who voted by over 90% to reject the relentless charm offensive, is emphatic. Efforts to convince residents to vote to transfer their homes to a Housing Association rather than remain with the Housing Executive have been utterly rejected and this result is a powerful message from citizens that they aren’t easily fooled by empty promises, or scare tactics. This result is also about much more than the courageous decision by local residents in Ballyclare. It is a direct challenge to Government to halt years of neglect by the state. It is a call by citizens to properly fund the Housing Executive and allow it to borrow to enable it to carry out its own repairs and upgrades. More importantly however the right to borrow would enable the Housing Executive to commence a comprehensive programme of new builds, which would immediately create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of apprenticeships for young people.

“The ‘right to borrow’ issue is now front and centre in this housing debate. The focus on dismantling the Housing Executive and selling off Housing Executive homes to the highest bidder is now a busted flush. It is now time for a proper debate about how to enable the Housing Executive to access funding so it can undertake a programme of repairs and contribute to a much needed programme of new builds; 40,000 people on housing waiting lists, including 13,000 officially recorded as homeless deserve better from Government.

The residents of The Grange, Ballyclare have voted for a change of direction. They have led the way. The Department now needs to change its direction and work with the rest of us to make housing a priority in the years ahead for all citizens.

This is a great result for residents in The Grange. It is also a great result for democracy and people power. The people have spoken. The Department needs to listen.”

Paddy Mackel

Assistant Secretary