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People presenting as homeless in Co Armagh told only availability is ‘Belfast or Derry’

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Problems securing local temporary accommodation for those presenting as homeless will have to be “grappled against for several years yet” the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) has confirmed.

At a meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on Monday, August 22, Lurgan councillor Ciaran Toman asked NIHE’s Chief Executive, Grainia Long what steps the organisation is taking to meet the demand for temporary accommodation in the borough.

“I have had a number of cases over the past several months where an individual presents as homeless and is placed in temporary accommodation,” said the SDLP representative.

“However, they are told by the housing executive that the only stock available is in Belfast or Derry.

“It is most likely these individuals are vulnerable and need the support of family and friends. It is not ideal that they have to move to one of the two cities so my question is what is the housing executive doing to improve local temporary accommodation.”

Claiming she was “grateful to have the opportunity to talk about homelessness and temporary accommodation” Ms Long said it was “without question the single biggest issue” facing NIHE right now.

However, in her response she explained why there will be no quick fix found to address this problem.

“We had hoped the prevalence and growth in homelessness and people needing temporary accommodation would reduce as we moved out of the pandemic but it has not,” said Ms Long.

“There are a number of reasons for that including people losing their tenancies in the private rental sector because some landlords are exiting the market.

“We are finding it extremely difficult to access and lease temporary accommodation in a number of areas. We will only place people out of their local area if we absolutely have to and that is sometimes the case, though not always.

“We are looking at a range of options for temporary accommodation. I would love to have longer leases. Currently we cannot provide anything more than a one year agreement with a landlord and that makes us uncompetitive.

So, with soaring demand and very little accommodation locally, I am afraid I do not have a positive picture to paint.”

She continued by noting placing people in hotels is a very expensive option and warned very few solutions exist other than looking at “longer term sustainable programmes”.

“We don’t want to place people in hotels but when we do it costs 7.5 times the price of a private sector lease and that is bad use of public money,” said Ms Long.

“This is something I think we will grapple against for several years yet, there are very few solutions other than longer term sustainable programmes.”

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