Social housing issue brought to Stormont

LISBURN MLA Paul Givan is bringing the debate over social housing in Lisburn to Stormont next month when he will push Social Development Minister Alex Attwood over developing an £18 million housing scheme at Ballymacash.

It was announced earlier this year that the Department for Social Development is to build approximately 150 new homes for the Ballymacash area, in association with Ulidia Housing.

Lisburn City Council, who currently own the land at The Hill, Ballymacoss, will transfer ownership of the land to the Housing Executive, whilst Ulidia will develop the homes.

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However, concern is growing amongst local Councillors that the project has not moved forward and that the funding currently in place for the scheme in this financial year may be lost, as the end of the financial year approaches.

Raising the issue at Tuesday night's Monthly Council meeting, Councillor Paul Givan said: "This is an issue the Council has been pursuing for years.

"We have been continuing to seek updates to have the deal secured. We are getting close and I think we need to express concern to the DSD first about the inability to get this sorted.

"Clearly we have a limited window to get this resolved and I will be asking the Minister to expedite this matter as a matter of urgency."

Councillor Givan added: "This has been delayed and delayed and this is an attempt to push it over the line.

"The funding is in place for this financial year, but if there is any slippage and if it doesn't take place soon that money may have to be moved.

"The prospects then of getting funding at a different time will be difficult given the cuts from Westminster. This needs to happen in the next number of weeks, never mind months."

Councillor Jonathan Craig added: "I do find this extremely worrying.

"It is not only imperative to finances disappearing in the next financial year, I find it disappointing we appointed the Housing Association to move forward, yet here we are a few months away from the end of the financial year."

Meanwhile, Councillor Bill Gardiner-Watson said the project was "long overdue."

He said: "We were promised a development of social housing yet nothing is happening. We do have a need for social housing and it is typical of what is going on at Stormont that they are dragging their feet."

Councillor William Leathem added that whilst it is vital the development gets underway due to the financial situation and the job security it would bring through construction, he said the Council need to look at the "human element" of the project.

Mr Leathem said: "There are hundreds of people waiting on social housing and can't get it.

"There is a real need to try and get this satisfied and get a roof over their heads."

Lisburn Mayor, Alderman Paul Porter concluded: "There is a chronic waiting list for families, individuals, pensioners who need social housing."