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FERMANAGH COMHAIRLE DISTRICT COUNCIL CHEANTAIR FHEAR MANACH DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE COISTE FORBARTHA Minutes of the meeting of the Liaison Sub Committee (Housing) held in the Council Chamber, Townhall, Enniskillen on Monday, 27 June 2011 at 7.30pm. PRESENT: Councillors Ruth Lynch (Chairman), Harold Andrews, Alex Baird, Rosemary Barton, Alison Brimstone, Cyril Brownlee, Debbie Coyle, Barry Doherty, Raymond Farrell, Phil Flanagan, Brendan Gallagher, Basil Johnston, Bert Johnston, John O’Kane and Paul Robinson. ALSO PRESENT: Ms Lorraine Campbell, South Area Manager, Michael Callaghan, District Manager, Chris Cunningham, Principal Officer, Area Planner and PJ Mulrine, Grants Manager, Northern Ireland Housing Executive. APOLOGIES: Councillors Sheamus Greene and Brian McCaffrey. IN ATTENDANCE: Director of Environmental Health and Committee Clerk. D101/11 FERMANAGH DISTRICT COUNCIL HOUSING PLAN – 2011-2012 The Chairman welcomed Ms Campbell, Area Manager, NIHE, to the meeting and introduced the team to the Committee. Ms Campbell focused the Committee’s attention on section three of the District Housing Plan which presented the local housing strategy for the Fermanagh District Council area. She indicated that in the last financial year, the level of investment in the area was £10.4m, details of which were outlined to the Committee. 2 Turning to the current financial year, Ms Campbell informed the Committee that the projected investment within Fermanagh was £6.035m. The projected spend allocation was as follows: Capital Improvement Work £0.342m Planned Maintenance Work £0.571m Response Maintenance £1.224m Private Sector Grants £2.604m Supporting People £1.294m Ms Campbell indicated that the key elements of the Executive’s investment strategy in the Fermanagh District Council area were as follows: Delivering Decent Homes The Committee was informed that despite the continuation of improvements to housing conditions, the level of unfitness in Fermanagh/Omagh was 6.6%, compared to the regional average of 2.4%. The percentage number of dwellings in the area which failed the Decent Homes Standard was 16.4%, compared to the NI figure of 15.1%. Referring to Fuel Poverty, Ms Campbell indicated that in 2009, the percentage of households in fuel poverty in Fermanagh/Omagh was 42.8%, with a NI average of 43.7%. The Committee was informed that the NIHE, in addition to the installation of more energy efficient heating systems, were investigating a proposal to assist tenants to buy fuel at the most cost effective price. They also proposed to implement a review of their heating policy. Turning to the Private Sector, Ms Campbell indicated that Fuel Poverty had been addressed through the Warm Homes Scheme which helped the most vulnerable households to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and helped to alleviate fuel poverty. In March 2011, 411 homes were insulated, 28 received heating installations and 38 benefited from both insulation and heating installation. In relation to the programme of work to achieve Decent Home Standards in NIHE stock, Ms Campbell informed the Committee that in 2010/2011, 124 dwellings had been included in kitchen replacement schemes with external 3 cyclical maintenance carried out on 312 properties in Enniskillen and Belleek. Energy efficient heating systems had been installed in 85 dwellings in Enniskillen and Lisnaskea which included the upgrading of insulation and provision of smoke alarms. It was proposed to install smoke alarms to a further 177 properties across the District. A scheme for the replacement of external cladding, re-roofing and installation of double glazed windows was nearing completion at Windmill Road and Elliot Place, Enniskillen. It was further proposed to replace kitchens in 96 dwellings and replace heating systems in 45 dwellings across the District during this financial year. Ms Campbell informed the Committee that funding had been secured for kitchen improvements to 39 dwellings and external cyclical maintenance for 116 dwellings. Should additional funding become available a further 108 dwellings would be included in a reserve kitchen replacement scheme. Referring to the private sector, Ms Campbell indicated that the provision of grants to landlords and owner occupiers had been an effective tool in addressing housing conditions in the private sector. Promoting Independent Living Ms Campbell informed the Committee that the ‘promoting independent living’ initiative was aimed at providing assistance to the most vulnerable. It was intended to invest £1.3m in 2011/2012 through the Supporting People Programme. The Committee was informed that there were 19 supported housing accommodation based schemes in this Council area along with seven floating support schemes. The Committee was informed that Fermanagh was unique in that the District Office staff provided a floating support service, in conjunction with the Fold Housing Association’s Castle Erne facility. In relation to homelessness, the Committee was informed that 159 cases were accepted as homeless in 2010/2011, 50% of these cases were single people. Ms Campbell indicated 115 cases had been placed in temporary accommodation. Turning to adaptations, the Committee was informed that in 2011/2012, £244k had been invested in NIHE 4 properties, along with disabled facilities grants to a value of £790k. Ms Campbell informed the Committee the NIHE intended to approve a further 120 disabled facilities grants for private households in 2011/2012. Fostering Urban and Rural Regeneration Ms Campbell informed the Committee that Fermanagh District Council was ranked 5th least deprived council area in Northern Ireland with unemployment at 5%, in line with the Northern Ireland average. She indicated that there had been an increase to 81.5% in relation to Housing Executive tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit. Ms Campbell indicated that the NIHE had delivered a range of projects through the Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships which included the provision of additional/improved car parking, street paving and environmental improvements. It was also proposed to provide estate markers at a number of locations and the extension and renovation of Kilmacormick Resource Centre, Enniskillen. Turning to rural regeneration, Ms Campbell informed the Committee that a latent demand test had resulted in the provision of a five unit scheme at Adrian Heights, Donagh. She indicated that there were 22 empty properties across the District, however, the NIHE continued to progress the long term empty property reinstatement programme. Promoting Affordable Housing Ms Campbell indicated that the NIHE worked closely with housing associations to ensure the delivery of the Social Housing Development Programmes. In 2010/2011, 33 schemes had been completed, 86 schemes were on site at 31 March 2011 with 24 new build schemes programmed for 2011/2012, a breakdown by settlement was outlined in the District Housing Plan. The Committee was informed that in 2010 the average house price in Fermanagh had dropped by 40.9% to £131,167, which was considerably lower than the NI average of £156,746. However, despite this drop, there remained serious difficulties in obtaining mortgages. 5 Referring to the demand for Social Housing, Ms Campbell indicated that there had been 813 applicants on the waiting list in 2010, this was the lowest since 2006. She informed the Committee that there had been 186 allocations, however, the five year housing need estimate indicated a requirement for an extra 259 dwellings. The Committee was informed that 2010/2011 saw the delivery or commencement of a total of 119 units. The Programme for the current financial year included two schemes with a total of 24 new builds. Ms Campbell indicated that the NIHE continued to promote the private rented sector as a decent and affordable housing option and worked with the DSD to develop a rent guarantee scheme to make this a more realistic option for those unable to afford deposits and advance rents. Building a Stronger Community Ms Campbell indicated that anti social behaviour was the main concern of the community. She indicated that the NIHE had increased the profile of the Neighbourhood Officers and encouraged tenants to come forward if they had suffered from anti social behaviour. In the previous year 233 cases of anti social behaviour had been reported, most of which had been settled without recourse to legal action, three cases had been referred for mediation and nine properties had been repossessed. Building Better Public Services The Committee was informed that the NIHE customer outlets, district offices, service units and grants offices had now achieved customer excellence accreditation. Ms Campbell indicated that the NIHE had processed new claims for housing benefit within an average of 17.4 days and change of claimants circumstances were now processed in an average of 2.8 days. Relet turnaround time at 17 days was considerably lower than the 26 day target. Ms Campbell concluded her presentation by thanking the Council for its co-operation and support. Members raised various questions and concerns which were answered by representatives of the NIHE. 6 Councillors expressed their gratitude to members of the NIHE for the service they provided. The Chairman thanked the representatives from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for their presentation and they left the meeting. RISING: The Committee rose at 8.55pm. All Members named were present at the commencement of the meeting. All those named remained present for the duration of the meeting except Councillor Harold Andrews who left at 8.00pm, Councillors Bert Johnston and Paul Robinson who left at 8.15pm and Councillors Alex Baird and Rosemary Barton who left at 8.30pm.
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