Agenda and minutes

Special Council - Housing, Special Meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council
Tuesday 25 May 2021 4.00 pm

Venue: remotely - Remotely. View directions

Media

Items
No. Item

SC63/21

Notice and Summons of Meeting

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The Director of Health and Community read the Notices and Summons for the Meeting.

SC64/21

Member Attendance and Apologies

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The Director of Health and Community completed the roll call. Apologies were noted for Alderman McCready and Councillor Cusack.

 

 

SC65/21

Statement for Remote Meetings

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The Mayor read the Statement for Remote Meetings.

SC66/21

Declaration of Members' Interest

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 Item 6 -To receive Ms G Long, Chief Executive, Mr P Isherwood, Director of Asset Management and Mr E Doherty, Area Manager, Northern Ireland Housing Executive to discuss issues around Maintenance and Repair Programmes – Councillor Duffy.

Chairperson's Business

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SC67/21

Welcome

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The Mayor welcomed all of the Housing representatives who were in attendance to present to the Meeting.  He particularly welcomed Ms Grainia Long, the newly appointed Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Housing Executive to the Meeting and congratulated her on her appointment and wished her success.

 

SC68/21

To receive Ms G Long, Chief Executive, Mr P Isherwood, Director of Asset Management and Mr E Doherty Area Manager, Northern Ireland Housing Executive to discuss issues around Maintenance and Repair Programmes (Ref: Motion at March Meeting of Council - Min Ref: C129/21) - copy to follow pdf icon PDF 693 KB

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Minutes:

The Mayor welcomed Ms G Long, Chief Executive, Mr P Isherwood, Director of Asset Management and Mr E Doherty, Area Manager, NIHE, to the Meeting.

 

Ms Long thanked Members for the invitation to address Council.  She advised Members that she had taken up the position of Chief Executive of NIHE on 1 April 2021 and was beginning a process of meetings with each of the various Councils.

 

Ms Long referred to the scale of the Housing Executive across Northern Ireland with 84,000 homes in its ownership.  She said the Housing Executive provided services directly to more than 170,000 people including more than 40,000 children and young people.  She referred to the role of the Housing Executive in terms of providing secure accommodation for children and young people together with providing services to households of all ages across Northern Ireland.

 

She referred to the focus of the Housing Executive in terms of response maintenance and pointed out that during the 2019/2020 business year the Housing Executive had responded to 320,000 maintenance repairs which equated to approximately £52m.  This highlighted the scale of the organisation.

 

Ms Long pointed referred to the Housing Executive’s extensive customer base.  She pointed out that during the 2019/2020 financial year the organisation had allocated £559 million in respect of housing benefit which was a critical income stream for those in receipt of this benefit.  She referred to the current waiting list figures which in March 2021 showed 43,000 applicants representing a 13% increase from the previous year.  This reflected the significant level of housing need and housing stress which existed.  She said the Housing Executive would continue to provide services through the Supporting People Programme, where required.  The Housing Executive currently provided services to over 19,000 people across Northern Ireland and worked with over 500 community and voluntary sector organisations who were core partners.   She pointed out that the past year had proved successful in regards to the social housing development programme as they had exceeded their new build targets in partnership with housing associations.

 

Ms Long referred to the Housing Executive’s annual spend of £1.2 billion which reflected the scale of the work undertaken.  She emphasised the importance of the role of the organisation in terms of housing provision, whilst realising its objectives in terms of the social, economic and environmental impact of the work it carried out.  She said that where possible, the Housing Executive endeavoured to spend its budget locally to ensure investment in local supply chains and employment.  She also referred to the importance of investing in skills locally and, where possible, in all procurement contracts to embed social values.  She stated that the forthcoming planned maintenance programme would generate at least fifty apprenticeships per year and the Housing Executive would endeavour to continue to improve on this figure.  She referred to the position of the Housing Executive from an economic impact perspective and particularly in regards to its housing development plan.

 

Ms Long referred to the huge focus of the Derry City  ...  view the full minutes text for item SC68/21

SC69/21

Ms S McCallion, Chief Executive, Mr K Butler, Director of Property Services and Ms D Matthewson, Director of Housing, Apex Housing Association pdf icon PDF 416 KB

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Minutes:

Members then received Ms S McCallion, Chief Executive, Mr K Butler, Director of Property Services and Ms D Matthewson, Director of Housing, Apex Housing Association

 

Ms McCallion welcomed the opportunity to address the Meeting.  She undertook to provide Members with background information in regards to the services provided by Apex particularly in terms of maintenance and repair works. 

 

Ms McCallion gave a power-point presentation on the Maintenance and Repairs Service to Tenants a copy of which had previously been circulated to Members.

 

Members welcomed the detailed presentation.

 

Councillor Logue enquired if the Apex planned maintenance scheme was currently on target, given the pandemic and the issues pertaining thereto.   She requested that Members be given notification of the planned maintenance schemes to be carried out within their specific DEAs together with the name of the contractor involved and the Project Manager. 

 

Councillor Logue referred to the report prepared by the Housing Executive on the issue of Cavity Wall Insulation which had been extremely damning.  She acknowledged that the majority of Apex stock was relatively new.  However, she referred to a number of Apex developments which had been built during the 1970s and 1980s, referring specifically to Glenowen, which would have been included in the Cavity Wall Report prepared by the Housing Executive in 2019.  She suggested that all sections of the housing sector should consider this report and take the necessary action to address the problems which had been identified.

 

Councillor Logue referred to a number of flat roofed properties contained within the Glenowen development which had been causing problems and if there were plans to address this. 

 

Councillor Logue referred to the sheltered accommodation provided by Apex and acknowledged the growing number of elderly people who availed of this type of accommodation.  She expressed concern that many of these residential properties could not facilitate the mobility scooters required by a considerable number of residents.  She enquired if there were plans to update sheltered housing accommodation to accommodate those residents requiring mobility scooters.

 

Councillor Jackson welcomed the development at St Brecan’s Park and congratulated all of those involved in this process.  He stated that the first phase of this development had provided much needed accommodation for a large number of young families.  He looked forward to the completion of the next stage.  He referred to the efforts of Apex staff in terms of facilitating and supporting the new tenants in regards to their integration into the local community.  He said this was not unusual and referred to similar experiences in respect of Clondermott Park.  He stated that locally people had become accustomed to the quality service provided by Apex.

 

Councillor Jackson referred to the large number of families with young children who had moved to St Brecan’s Park and whilst the development was of the most superior quality, there had been requests from residents for additional road safety measures.  He requested that either the Chief Executive or the Director of Property Services contact him following the meeting to  ...  view the full minutes text for item SC69/21

SC70/21

Mr J McLean, Chief Executive, Ms A McStravick, Director of Assets and Ms L Wilson, Director of Communities, Radius Housing pdf icon PDF 2 MB

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Minutes:

The Mayor welcomed Mr J McLean, Chief Executive, Ms A McStravick, Director of Assets and Ms L Wilson, Director of Communities, Radius Housing to the Meeting.

 

Mr McLean thanked Members for the invitation to address the Meeting.  He also thanked those Members involved for their assistance in regards to commencing the Sean Dolans Project on site.  He said this was a major project in terms of its mixed use and would provide an additional 120 new homes in the area.  He also referred to the progress which had been made in regards to the Ebrington Barracks development.

 

Ms McStravick gave a powerpoint presentation on the organisations Maintenance and Repair Responsibilities to Tenants.  A copy of the presentation was previously circulated to Members.

 

Mr McLean pointed out that the Area Manager in this area provided a particularly pro-active service on the ground supporting not only the general needs of a family but also the many generations of people who had lived in sheltered schemes.  He invited Ms Wilson to provide Members with an overview of the support mechanisms which were in place to help support tenants to sustain their tenancies.

 

Ms Wilson pointed out that Radius were conscious of the fact that all of its tenants were currently facing extremely challenging times.  She referred to the critical role played by the Area Manager within the North West Forum.  She said the Association constantly sought to maximise tenants’ income and to sustain their tenancies.  She referred to the Association’s Community Advice Team which consisted of Welfare Officers who offered specialist advice to tenants to ensure that they were in receipt of their rightful entitlements and address any hardship queries which arose. 

 

Ms Wilson advised that as a result of Covid, Radius had set up a Hardship Fund.  Tenants in crisis who required a short-term emergency payment could make application for this fund.  She referred to the excellent work being carried out by the Association and reminded Members that the Area Manager, was the initial point of contact in this Council area.

 

Mr McLean pointed out that Radius had an excellent working relationship with local community groups.  He said the Association had been involved in the setting-up and operating of the Foyle Food Bank and also referred to the Christmas Special Fund operated by Radius.

 

Members welcomed the presentation and the contribution for the various representatives.

 

Councillor Doyle referred to a serious case involving a Radius tenant within his DEA which had now been resolved.  The case involved a pregnant mother with a young child who had been left without heating in her accommodation for four weeks.  The tenant had been provided with a number of blow-heaters to compensate until such times as the problem was addressed.  He said heating was a necessity and to be without this for such a considerable period of time was totally unacceptable.  He referred to complaints he had received from a number of young single mothers who felt that they were being somewhat disregarded or overlooked by  ...  view the full minutes text for item SC70/21

SC71/21

Mr P Mooney, Asset Manager NW, Habinteg Housing pdf icon PDF 6 MB

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Minutes:

The Mayor advised Members that he had to leave the Meeting to attend a Mayoral engagement.  He invited the Deputy Mayor to the position of Chairperson for the remainder of the Meeting.

 

The Deputy Mayor welcomed Mr P Mooney, Asset Manager NW, Habinteg Housing to the Meeting.

 

Mr Mooney provided Members with a brief overview of the Habinteg Housing Association.  He then gave a presentation on the Association’s Maintenance and Repair Responsibilities to Tenants.

 

Members welcomed the presentation.

 

Councillor Donnelly referred to a serious situation which had arisen at the Eden Square development.  This involved stabbings, slashings and threats being made to tenants.  He said the situation had deteriorated in recent months.  He felt that Habinteg had reneged on any of its responsibility to its tenants in this area in regards to addressing this problem.  He said he was aware that a number of tenants in this development had applied for alternative accommodation.  He referred to the children of two families who would not return to the property because of their experiences.  He said the response from Habinteg had been most unsatisfactory with no action being taken to address these very serious issues.

 

Mr Mooney acknowledged the concerns expressed by Councillor Donnelly which he undertook to relay to the Association’s Management Team and assured him a prompt response.

 

Councillor Jackson also referred to a number of unsatisfactory experiences he had with Habinteg in regard to issues raised by tenants.  He referred to one particular incident regarding an entire scheme carried out at Gelvin Gardens when almost every dwelling experienced serious problems with the work carried out.  He said Habinteg had endeavoured to tackle some of the problems which had arisen.  However, a number of tenants were still experiencing problems particularly in regards to the heating installation.  He said many of the schemes carried out had been long overdue and it was therefore even more frustrating to experience such widespread problems as was the case in regards to Gelvin Gardens. 

Councillor Jackson referred to the levels of development alluded to in the presentation within this City and district.  He said this was disappointing as it had been anticipated that Habinteg would carry out more extensive development in this area.  He expressed concern at the apparent lack of uniformity in terms of responsibilities within the various housing associations. He referred to the fact that Habinteg tenants were responsible for providing bins whilst other Housing Associations undertook this responsibility.

 

Councillor Jackson expressed concern at the number of housing associations located East of the Bann.  He felt that, in many instances this resulted in response maintenance being protracted, particularly where contractors had to travel from Belfast to carry out small repairs. In regards to response maintenance he enquired if Habinteg had employed any local contractors to carry out repair/maintenance works. He said the use of local contractors could improve response times.

 

Mr Mooney acknowledged the issues regarding the heating upgrades at Gelvin Gardens which had been investigated and he understood all of these issues  ...  view the full minutes text for item SC71/21

SC72/21

Mr T Griffin, Group Director of Assets, Clanmil Housing- To provide a Verbal Update

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The Deputy Mayor welcomed Mr T Griffin, Group Director of Assets, Clanmil Housing Association.

 

Mr Griffin pointed out that all of the Housing Associations operated under the Housing Association Guides and the requirements set by the Department for Communities.

 

Mr Griffin advised that Clanmil Housing Association was responsible for approximately 6,000 housing units, 188 of which were located in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.  He pointed out that 143 of these were apartments with the remainder being a mix of bungalows and houses.

 

In regards to response performance Mr Griffin pointed out that although the Department had set a completion target of within 80-85%, Clanmil had its own target of 92%.  He said this target had not been met during the current year and he was aware that all of the housing associations and contractors had struggled to meet their targets during Covid.  He stated that post-Covid there was evidence of an increase in the cost of labour and materials as well as difficulties in regards to accessing some materials.  He referred to the fact that a number of components were transported from mainland Europe and the associated difficulties arising from Brexit and the Suez issue in regards to supply chains.

 

Mr Griffin pointed out that Clanmil tenants had shown tremendous understanding during the Covid crisis.  He said Clanmil still had a small backlog which it was working with contractors to address.  He said the Association was currently in a process of transition both in regards to the organisation and particularly on its maintenance contracts.  He said the Association had recently begun a procurement exercise with the current contract expiring at the end of August 2021.

 

Mr Griffin explained that the broad service within assets was similar to those highlighted by the other housing associations.  He said all of the responsibilities between tenant and landlord were also broadly the same as were response times.  He said Clanmil carried out its planned maintenance planning through a rolling stock survey by in-house staff which was slightly supplemented by external consultants.  This was subsequently fed into the Association’s long term plan.  He pointed out that major components were replaced on a lifecycle.  He referred to an arrangement whereby issues and works identified on a broad level were considered at scheme level and discussed with staff together with any specific issues which may have arisen in regards to a particular area.    

 

Mr Griffin advised that the Association had structured its Assets Team as well as its Housing Management Team in accordance with each of the Council areas.  He said the Area Maintenance Officer for this Council area was a longstanding member of the team who was based in the City.  This had served the area well and an excellent connection now existed within this Council area.  He said Clanmil was extremely pro-active in regards to adapting its services to local areas.  He referred to a recently started process of tenant engagement as well as the local engagement FORA.  He  ...  view the full minutes text for item SC72/21

SC73/21

Response from Deputy Secretary, Housing, Urban Regeneration and Local Government, Department for Communities pdf icon PDF 658 KB

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Minutes:

Members noted the content of the response received from the Deputy Secretary, Housing, Urban Regeneration and Local Government.