The Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland, has responded to a written question by East Derry SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat informing him that the eight houses shown on the BBC programme ‘The Estate’ are to be refurbished beginning this summer.
In a reply to Mr Dallat (PICTURED RIGHT) , the Minister said: “Tackling the issue of empty homes not only provides the opportunity to make more housing available for those in housing need, but it can also help reduce blight and regenerate communities.
“Nearly 100 existing homes that were long term voids in Antrim, North Belfast and Downpatrick have already been identified to bring back into use and more will follow, including some in Ballysally.
“In Ballysally estate there are a total of 20 properties currently steeled up. The majority of these (18) are owned by SHAC Housing Association while the Housing Executive has secured two following severe fire damage.
“Plans are already underway by SHAC (who are currently being managed by Oaklee Housing Association) to bring their housing back into use on a phased basis.
“Phase one will start this summer with three voids refurbished alongside upgrades to seven adjacent occupied properties. Work to bring the remaining homes back into use will be programmed following that.
Mr Dallat told the Times: “The SHAC housing association, which is currently managed by Oaklee Housing Association, should be embarrassed about these properties and the time taken to restore them is completely unsatisfactory.
“Residents shouldn’t have to live with this eyesore on their doorstep and the fact that they have now been viewed by 280,000 people on a weekly basis in the programme ‘The Estate’ should be sending out the alarm bells that Ballysally has been neglected on a large scale.
Mr Dallat added: “Yes Ballysally has had its problems but talking about renovating only three derelect houses this year is hardly the reaction I expected given the amount of publicity the estate is attracting and the massive job needed to begin restoring the houses that have fallen into neglect or have been vandalised.
“I know the participants in the programme have been abused but it would be better directing that energy at the statutory bodies who have the responsibility for addressing the social issues in Ballysally that are not different from what they are in other large estates which were badly planned and lacked the kind of infrastructure that is needed to accommodate and support people, especially those with problems.”