Improvements to Housing Executive Homes put at Risk
Date: Thursday, 26 November 2009
Reference: SD 07/09/10
Uncertainty in Housing Executive funding could lead to fewer improvements and poorer standards within HE homes. That’s the message that contractors to the Housing Executive delivered today as they gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Social Development Committee which oversees the work of the Department for Social Development.
The contractors provide kitchen, bathroom and other necessary improvements to Housing Executive homes and are based throughout Northern Ireland. They expressed their concerns at the effects an anticipated shortfall in Housing Executive funding may produce, including redundancies and a poorer standard in Housing Executive homes.
Simon Hamilton MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “The Social Development Committee wants to see better housing across all tenures and in all areas of Northern Ireland. The maintenance and improvement programmes operated by the Housing Executive are critical to the continuing drive to bring all social housing up to the Decent Homes Standard. The Committee wants to see this improved quality standard in existing housing as well as providing more new social houses.
“The Committee understood that following a £20m additional allocation to DSD in June, these contractors would be undertaking a further £20m worth of much-needed improvement work in Housing Executive homes. The Committee accepts the difficult funding position for housing but we were alarmed that the promised expenditure wasn’t being released quickly enough.”
He continued: “We very much welcome the apparent allocation of a further £6m although we would point out that it is still shy of the promised £20m. Clearly contractors need much more certainty about future funding. The Committee believes that the programme for new social housing must be sensibly balanced against this need for better quality in existing homes.”
Notes to Editors:
The Housing Executive maintenance contracts discussed at Committee are sometimes known as Egan contracts. The Egan approach to contracts is intended to give the contractor more security through longer term contracts while providing incentives to get things right the first time by making the contractor responsible for the design and maintenance of improvements. So-called Egan contracts were awarded in 2008 for external cyclical maintenance, kitchen and bathroom replacements and other maintenance work in Housing Executive homes.
In the June Monitoring Round, the Department for Social Development was allocated £20m by the Northern Ireland Executive to support private sector grants on the understanding that the Department made a further £20m available for Egan contracts in the social housing sector. The Department has so far only been able to find an additional £8m for Egan contracts.
Egan contractors report that the consequences of the anticipated shortfall in funding will be a significant level of redundancies just before Christmas.
In order to meet the Decent Homes Standard, a dwelling must:
- meet the statutory fitness standard – be structurally stable; be free from serious disrepair; be free from serious dampness; have adequate lighting heating and ventilation; have suitably located kitchen, bathroom, WC etc.;
- be in a reasonable state of repair;
- have reasonably modern facilities i.e. some of the following: a kitchen (less than 20 years old); a bathroom (less than 30 years old); an appropriately located WC; adequate insulation again noise etc.; and
- provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
It is understood that the Savills’ report indicates that although overall quality in Housing Executive homes is improving, around 11,000 Housing Executive homes do not meet the Decent Homes Standard.
The Committee for Social Development membership is:
Mr. Simon Hamilton MLA (Chairperson)
Mr. David Hilditch MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr. Billy Armstrong MLA
Mrs. Mary Bradley MLA
Mr. Mickey Brady MLA
Mr. Thomas Burns MLA
Mr. Jonathan Craig MLA
Mr. Alex Easton MLA
Ms. Anna Lo MLA
Mr. Fra McCann
Ms. Carál Ní Chuilín MLA