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McGill welcomes Ministers commitment to investigate Springhill Park derelict homes issue

22 May, 2007


West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Claire McGill has secured a commitment from Social Development Minister Margaret Ritche to urgently investigate the case of Housing Executive properties in Springhill Park in Strabane which have been left derelict and which have been the subject of repeated arson and vandalism attacks which has resulted in the endangerment of families in the adjoining properties.

Claire McGill, the party's Poverty Spokesperson and member of the Social Development Committee was speaking yesterday in the Assembly debate on the growing housing affordability crisis and on a Sinn Fein proposal to:

(ii) take immediate steps to tackle the scandal of vacant properties; and recognises that this could go a long way to deal with the serious crisis which exists in the provision of social and affordable housing, highlighted by the Semple recommendations.

Speaking about call the local MLA said,

"The increasing lack of affordable housing and the adverse financial and social impact this is having on a growing number of families in both rural and urban areas of Strabane and Omagh districts must be addressed through a pro-active and time limited strategy by the Department of Social Development.

"Through property speculation, the growth of the buy-to-let market and Direct Rule Planning Policy PPS14, which has forced many young rural families into urban settings, the cost of homes is spiralling out of the reach of people, particularly first time buyers

"The lack of affordable housing is being compounded by the serious under provision of social housing and a private rented sector that is not providing good value for money.

"In terms of the current housing waiting list there are 558 applicants in Strabane District and approximately 600 in the Omagh District Area yet during the 2006-2007 financial year Strabane saw just 9 new social housing units being built while in Omagh there was none!

"During this debate I drew the Ministers attention to the case the case of Housing Executive properties in Springhill Park in Strabane which have been left derelict and which have been the subject of repeated arson and vandalism attacks which has resulted in the endangerment of families in the adjoining properties. Following the debate the Minister requested the details of this serious issue in Springhill Park and has promised to urgently investigate the matter.

"Given the extent of the housing waiting list in this area this issue has to be elevated to a departmental level. Similarly, there are in the thousands homes lying vacant across the six counties and the reclamation and redevelopment of even a proportion of this total would go along way to addressing the crisis in the availability of affordable and social housing and it is up to the department to ensure that sufficient capital is made available to the local area Housing Executives to enable this reclamation and redevelopment.

"The disjoint between demand and under-provision for social and affordable housing exists right across the six counties and I welcome the Ministers commitment to now set up an Inter-departmental group to tackle the growing housing affordability crisis and her specific commitment to me to urgently investigate the case of the derelict homes in Springhill Park which is an issue of utmost concern to the local community." ENDS

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