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Cash shortage hitting Ulster builds

A cash shortage is delaying major improvements for several thousand Housing Executive homes in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

Work like installing new heating systems, kitchens or bathrooms had to be curtailed because of collapsing house sales and the credit crunch.

But 1,838 new social houses were started during the 2009/10 financial year, the largest number for a decade, the executive’s annual report said.

Executive chairman Brian Rowntree said: “Unfortunately, the shortfall in funding in 2009/10 meant we had to reduce drastically the number of discretionary grants for tackling disrepair and unfitness in private sector housing.

“It also meant that we were unable to begin major capital improvement works which had been planned for our own Housing Executive homes this year.

“The result is that there are now several thousand tenants awaiting major improvements.”

No exact figure for the number of properties awaiting improvements is available. Maintenance to problems reported like burst pipes or blocked drains is unaffected.

For nearly two years, the executive has faced a shortfall in its house sale receipts of at least £100 million due to the collapsing market and credit crunch.

Because of that, the priority has been to direct resources toward housing for vulnerable people and those without a home of their own.

Full scale improvement schemes have had to be deferred until capital proceeds from house and land sales recover.

The report said: “This is very disappointing for those tenants directly affected and who continue to wait for work to begin.

“It is equally frustrating for local Housing Executive staff who want to see local schemes proceed at the earliest opportunity.”