The DUP have been accused of ‘exaggeration and negativity’ over a proposed transfer of 399 Housing Executive properties in the Mournview and Grey Estate to a Housing Association.
Ulster Unionist Alderman Arnold Hatch has called on the DUP to give ‘a fair wind to the proposals so that renovation works and other investments can be made’.
Mr Hatch said: “As a former member of a local housing association and also of the NIH Council, I have been advocating for over 10 years for the NIHE to follow the trends in the rest of the UK and transfer some of their housing stock to local Housing Associations.
“Indeed this is policy which my party has also included in recent election manifestos and policy documents.
“It is an accepted fact that satisfaction levels of housing association tenants including our own South Ulster Housing Association are considerably higher than those of the NIHE or other local authority houses in England. Response times are quicker and tenants can develop closer relationships with their HA landlord and vice versa.
“Alderman Lockhart seems to forget that it was the DUP Minister for Social Development who asked the NIHE to develop a Housing Stock Transfer Scheme some time ago for about two per cent of the Housing executive’s 90,000 properties. Hardly a revolution.
“It is typical DUP exaggeration and negativity according to Carla Lockhart’s statement in last week’s Lurgan Mail.”
He went on to say, “For once Northern Ireland is not being used as a guinea pig as most of the problems and safeguards for tenants have been sorted out in Scotland and England over many years.
“The 400 tenants involved in Lurgan will be fully consulted, their rights fully protected and an independent tenant advisor will be available during the formal consultation.
“As the Assembly is in debt to the hilt and the DSD/Housing Executive cannot borrow more public money at the moment it makes sense to allow local housing associations the opportunity to access private finance to upgrade a very small proportion of their stock.
“The tenants at the end of the process will have a vote to accept or reject the proposed transfer.”
Mr Hatch added, “In the real world whether in the private or public sector rents must reflect the quality of housing provided and must be approved by the Department of Social Development under the current and likely DUP Minister.
“This is also an opportunity to rationalise geographically which Housing Associations operate in what areas, because at the moment they can operate anywhere in Northern Ireland and therefore it would rational for South Ulster Housing Association which manages over 1,000 houses at present in the Craigavon area to be awarded the contract subject to a proper business case being provided.”