Written Answers

BLACKSTAFF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION

(BLACKSTAFF RESIDENTS)

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development how many houses in the redevelopment area of the Village, south Belfast, were surveyed internally.


Minister for Social Development: Over 27% of occupied dwellings (20% of all dwellings were blocked up or vacant) within the Urban Renewal Area were surveyed internally. In numerical terms, 286 out of 1033 occupied dwellings were internally surveyed, including 82 within the boundary of the area now agreed for redevelopment.

12 March 2010

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development to detail the number of properties (i) that have been blocked up: and (ii) that are due to be blocked up as a result of the Advance Purchase Scheme in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast.


Minister for Social Development (Ms M Ritchie): To date, 129 properties have been acquired in the Village area by the Housing Executive under the Advance Purchase Scheme and work has been undertaken on each to make them secure. A further 12 applications are currently being considered and will also be secured upon completion.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development if a full survey was carried out on the 204 properties in the Village improvement area of south Belfast; and how many were unfit for human habitation.


Minister for Social Development: Taking account of an internal survey carried out on 286 properties and the 106 blocked up properties, 33% of properties in the Village area were deemed not to meet the fitness standard.

If you would like to comment on the contents of this website or apply to join the Blackstaff Community Development Association (Blackstaff Residents) then you can email:

 feedback@blackstaff-residents.org.uk   

The following questions were sent to Ms A Lo and Mr J Spratt by the Blackstaff Associations so that they might ask them in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are thankful that they did so but the MLAs failed to act on the answers, especially when they revealed that the theHousing Executive is not aware of any occupied properties in the redevelopment area of the Village which have outside toilets and that the  Minister for Social Development replied that 82 proerties (out of 538) were internally surveyed within the boundary of the area now agreed for redevelopment.

Northern Ireland Assembly Written Answers to Questions

29 January 2009 : Village Area of South Belfast

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development when her Department intends to honour the commitment it made at the public inquiry into the vesting of homes in the Village area of south Belfast, to release the transcript to anyone who requested a copy.

Minister for Social Development (Ms M Ritchie): The Department gave no commitment to release the transcript from the recent public enquiry into the "village". Whilst the Independent Inspector who chaired the proceedings invited interested parties to seek the transcript from the Department at the end of the Inquiry if they so wished, he had no authority to approve the release of the document which is exempt from disclosure under section 32(2) (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development if she could confirm that the Housing Executive is not committed to courtyard layouts for new housing in the Village area of south Belfast as described in its selected option, and that the historic street pattern in the area will be retained.


Minister for Social Development: The Housing Executive is not committed to courtyard layouts or any other particular layout in the design of the proposed new housing in the Village. The objective is to achieve the most suitable design and housing mix, working in partnership with all interested parties – all options can be considered.



Minister for Social Development: Throughout the lengthy process of considering the various options for the regeneration of the Village Urban Redevelopment Area, all possible steps have been taken to engage with the various shades of opinion in the local community and to involve community representatives and residents fully at each stage of the process.

As the emphasis now moves towards consideration of the design options for the new housing, the emphasis will remain on ensuring maximum involvement of the community and their representatives. The Housing Executive has already commenced the process of setting up a Design Team which will include community representation. The Housing Executive’s District Manager has already arranged meetings with both the Greater Village Regeneration Trust and the Blackstaff Homeowners Association to consult them on the composition of the Design Team. It is not intended to place any residential restrictions on who the community chooses to represent them on the Design Team, but steps will be taken to ensure that all shades of opinion have the opportunity to be represented on the Design Team.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development, in relation to new housing in the Village area of south Belfast, (i) to confirm that 'community led' refers to residents living in the Urban Renewal Area; and (ii) what she proposes to do to make sure the community is provided with the opportunity to work in partnership with the Housing Executive on this project.


Minister for Social Development: Throughout the lengthy process of considering the various options for the regeneration of the Village Urban Redevelopment Area, all possible steps have been taken to engage with the various shades of opinion in the local community and to involve community representatives and residents fully at each stage of the process.

As the emphasis now moves towards consideration of the design options for the new housing, the emphasis will remain on ensuring maximum involvement of the community and their representatives. The Housing Executive has already commenced the process of setting up a Design Team which will include community representation. The Housing Executive’s District Manager has already arranged meetings with both the Greater Village Regeneration Trust and the Blackstaff Homeowners Association to consult them on the composition of the Design Team. It is not intended to place any residential restrictions on who the community chooses to represent them on the Design Team, but steps will be taken to ensure that all shades of opinion have the opportunity to be represented on the Design Team.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development if she has any plans to allow owners of new homes in the Village area of south Belfast to pay a nominal rent between the period of vesting and acquiring a new, or refurbished house.

Minister for Social Development: At the date of vesting all privately owned properties within the Redevelopment Area of the Village Urban Redevelopment Area will come into Housing Executive ownership and their occupants become Housing Executive tenants.


Those dwellings which are occupied will be charged a reduced rent plus rates in respect of their dwelling to reflect that the property is situated within a Redevelopment Area.

The rent for dwellings situated within a Redevelopment Area is determined using the Housing Executive’s Rent Assessment Scheme then limited to one third of the resultant charge. This charge will continue until the tenant is permanently re housed.

5 February 2010

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development, in relation to the announcement in February 2009 on the new housing initiative in the Village area of south Belfast to allow homeowners to buy a new home without having to meet the five year qualifying period, does she intend to include rehabilitated houses as well as new houses in the scheme.


Minister for Social Development (Ms M Ritchie): I plan to publish proposals in the coming weeks to support owner occupiers in redevelopment areas to remain in their community post regeneration.

These plans will include both new build and refurbished homes that may be available following the redevelopment of an area.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development, in the event of a vested house being refurbished instead of demolished, can she confirm if the house will be offered back to the original owner.

Minister for Social Development: I understand that this question refers to the Village area of Belfast.

Within the Village area the vast majority of houses which will be vested will be demolished to make way for new housing. The only exceptions are those dwellings in the Improvement Area which will be vested and improved for social housing - all are currently unoccupied and blocked up.

26 February 2010

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development why the transcript of the inquiry into the redevelopment of the Village area of south Belfast has not been made available to the BlackstaffCommunity Development Association and the Blackstaff Homeowners' Association.


Minister for Social Development: The Department gave no commitment to release the transcript from the recent public enquiry into the "Village". The document itself is exempt from disclosure under section 32(2)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development if she sought planning permission to block up houses in the Village area of south Belfast.


Minister for Social Development: Planning permission is not required to block up a vacant property. Vacant properties are blocked up to prevent vandalism and the theft of materials, or on Health and Safety grounds.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development how many houses in the redevelopment area of the Village, south Belfast, currently have outside toilets.


Minister for Social Development: The Housing Executive is not aware of any occupied properties in the redevelopment area of the Village which have outside toilets.

Mr A Maskey asked the Minister for Social Development to detail the process currently being employed by her Department to determine the value of properties which have been, or are being, vested as part of the regeneration scheme in the Village area of south Belfast.


Minister for Social Development: All valuations in advance of vesting or after vesting are carried out independently by Land and Property Services on behalf of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Agreement on the purchase price or compensation is reached through negotiation with either the applicant directly or an Estate Agent representing the applicant. The Housing Executive will pay any reasonable Agents fee associated with the negotiations.

26 March 2010

Ms A Lo asked e Minister for Social Development to detail the total cost to date of blocking up properties, including the cost of advance purchases, home loss and disturbance payments, in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast.


Minister for Social Development: To date the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has acquired 129 properties in the Village through the Advance Purchase Scheme. The cost of acquiring these properties was £15,852,500. The cost of Home Loss payments in respect ofthese properties was £1,585,250 and disturbance payments totalling £158,630 have been made. The cost of securing these properties has been approximately based on an average cost of £500 to secure each property.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development how many houses in the Village area of south Belfast are over 100 years old; and how many of these are in the redevelopment area.


Minister for Social Development: All 1312 properties within the Village Urban Renewal Area were constructed between 1900 and 1910 or during the inter war period.

The Housing Executive is currently undertaking an analysis of these dwellings and expects this information will be available in the coming weeks.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development what help is available to people with mortgages and/or home improvement loans in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast following the vesting of their homes.


Minister for Social Development: Compensation equivalent to market value, home loss and disturbance payments will be available for those who own homes in the Village which have to be acquired to make way for redevelopment activity.

Eligibility will vary depending on the precise circumstances of each applicant and the Housing Executive will be happy to discuss those with all interested parties directly.

In addition I will shortly publish new proposals designed specifically to support owner occupiers living in redevelopment areas remain in their community after redevelopment has taken place.

Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development if she will consider free or 'peppercorn' rent for residents living in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast to encourage them to stay in the area.


Minister for Social Development: At the operative date of vesting, all occupiers of privately owned dwellings in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast will become Housing Executive tenants and liable to pay rent, albeit a substantially reduced amount of rent. Rents will be assessed based on the rent point system operated by the Housing Executive and when assessed will be reduced to just one third of that figure to take account of the circumstances under which the Housing Executive acquired the home.

2 April 2010

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development why only 82 properties out of 538 in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast were internally surveyed, given that the Housing Executive booklet 'Redevelopment General Advice and Guidance' states that 'we will carry out a full survey of all the properties in the area and if more than a third are unfit we will consider redevelopment'.


Minister for Social Development: Over 27% of occupied dwellings within the Village Urban Renewal Area were surveyed internally. In numerical terms 286 out of 1033 occupied dwellings were internally surveyed. The methodology used for the Urban Renewal Assessment is as determined by the Housing (NI) Order 1992, Unfitness – Area Approach and Enforcement Action. The acquisition on vesting is determined by the Housing (NI) Order 1981 Article 46. Neither of these legal processes requires a full house condition survey of each dwelling.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development if a full survey was carried out on the 82 properties surveyed in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast; and how many were unfit for human habitation.


Minister for Social Development: Taking account of an internal survey carried out on 286 properties and the 106 blocked up properties, 33% of properties in the Village area were deemed not to meet the fitness standard


Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development to outline the criteria used to select properties.


Minister for Social Development: The 286 occupied properties internally inspected were selected on a random basis.

Mr J Spratt asked the Minister for Social Development whether a condition report was carried out on all properties in the Village redevelopment area of south Belfast, prior to them being blocked up.


Minister for Social Development: A condition report is not required for vacant properties. All blocked properties were vacant.

14 May 2010


Ms A Lo asked the Minister for Social Development (i) how many houses in the redevelopment section of the Village Renewal Area of south Belfast had grant aided work carried out in the last two years; and (ii) how much public money was spent on each house.


Minister for Social Development: No new applications for grant aid to homes in the redevelopment section of the Village have been approved since 30 April 2008, when an Urban Renewal Area was declared.

However 24 homes have had grant aided work totalling £95,836.51 completed within the last two years as these approvals pre-dated the declaration of the Urban Renewal Area and as such the Housing Executive was already committed to this work. These properties are all due for demolition.