Almost One Quarter Of NIHE Homes Weather Damaged

“Whilst I would resolutely praise the efforts of NIHE staff and others on the ground who have worked assiduously to try to help people stricken by the effects of the thaw, it is only right and proper that elected representatives ask questions about the nature of the Housing Executive’s response to this crisis. [caption id="attachment_15552" align="alignleft" width="185" caption="Strangford Assemblyman Simon Hamilton is concerned at the damage done to the NIHE housing stock by the severe weather. "][/caption] “What worries me greatly is the sheer scale of the problem experienced by the Housing Executive. An amazing 22,000 of its approximately 90,000 properties required repairs. That almost a quarter of all NIHE stock were affected by the thaw is a truly staggering statistic. “It seems completely and utterly out of sync with any other tenure type begging questions about why Housing Executive homes were more susceptible to broken heating systems, burst pipes and collapsed ceilings What the Housing Executive did to prepare tenants and their properties in advance of the thaw. “We all know that the thaw was serious, but I am genuinely taken aback by this figure. As a result of this, we now face a £10 million repair bill for which there is no budget. “Colleagues across the country have raised their concerns with me especially about communications and it is my intention to raise these issues at our next Social Development Committee meeting and if it is the Committee’s wish quiz the Housing Executive directly about them”, he added. A further concern about the role of housing bodies over the cold spell scame from Sinn Féin MLA Councillor Willie Clarke who said, “A Sinn Féin Assembly motion has urged urges Housing Bodies to learn lessons from the recent adverse weather. He called on the Social Development Minister Alex Attwood to implement an independent investigation into how the various Housing Bodies handled the the big freeze. Speaking from the Assembly where this week Sinn Féin submitted a motion to the Business Office calling for an investigation, Councillor  Clarke said,  “The recent prolonged spell of very cold weather has shown that lessons must be learnt from how numerous organisations performed during extreme conditions. Countless Housing Executive and Association tenants experienced a poor standard of communication, response and engagement from the Housing Bodies as well as their numerous subcontractors. “The Sinn Féin motion expresses deep concern at these obvious failings and calls for an investigation to establish how the Housing Executive and Housing Associations dealt with tens of thousands of requests for help from their tenants who suffered heating loss and burst and frozen pipes from mid-December onwards. [caption id="attachment_15078" align="alignright" width="202" caption="Down Councillor Willie Clarke MLA has expressed "deep concerns"."][/caption] “We need to see meaningful action taken by the Minister to ensure that lessons have indeed been learnt and that effective measures are put in place to ensure that there is no repeat of these failings on the scale we have seen over recent weeks.” A spokesman for the NIHE explained, “Over the holiday period the Housing Executive received tens of thousands of calls relating to heating issues and then burst pipes. Between 17th December and 4th January, we issued 34,000 individual repairs jobs 822 of these for homes in the Down District. “Our contractors worked flat out to repair burst pipes and to restore heating to the affected properties. Members of staff from our Downpatrick District Office are continuing to contact tenants to identify what additional repairs are required and our contractors are continuing to do their utmost to have all follow up repairs completed as quickly as possible. “The Housing Executive responded in a number of ways. “We extended our emergency services capability with staff available round the clock over the Christmas and New Year Holiday period. We also relocated our emergency services to extend the number of lines into the Housing Executive. “Senior management met regularly throughout the holiday period to monitor the situation and members of staff are continuing to work with local public representatives to ensure that the most vulnerable cases are prioritised. “Over the Christmas period we had 80 members of staff handling emergency telephone calls around the clock. Over the New Year period we opened all our Customer Service Units in Belfast, Ballymena, Craigavon, L’Derry and Newtownards during the day in addition to an extended 24-hour emergency team. “Tenants were able to contact the Housing Executive through the following ways: *  our emergency telephone number 03448 920 90 *  through our website *  and the emergency services email “The Housing Executive would ask if anyone is aware of someone who is vulnerable to contact the Housing Executive on their behalf. “Advice to tenants and the wider public regarding what to do about frozen and burst pipes and heating problems has been available through our staff, the media and our website. Indeed our website was updated daily as we became aware of the information being sought by our tenants.”]]>