COUNCILLORS have called for a special meeting with key figures in the Housing Executive to discuss the lack of new houses being built in Fermanagh.

The proposal to invite Grainia Long, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive and Elma Newberry, Director of Place Shaping, was made by Democratic Unionist councillor, Keith Elliott, who revealed that only nine additional houses areto be built within the Fermanagh area in 2024.

The proposal was made on the back of unanimous support for a Sinn Féin motion expressing concern at the lack of new houses being built or delivered by the Housing Executive and called for a revised definition and assessment of latent housing demand.

Proposer, Councillor Barry McElduff told councillors: “There are growing levels of housing stress in our communities and as councillors, many of us are witness to this. People constantly want reassurance from the Housing Executive that something is going to meet their needs. Maybe this is taking a toll on their physical and mental health. This involves people who are inadequately housed and sometimes paying costs which are relatively high compared to their income.”

He continued: “People need to see a dramatic change in their housing situation … Local people are often offered temporary hostel accommodation in Ballymena or Coleraine which doesn’t make sense. It shocks them as the only offer on the table.

Concluding, Councillor McElduff encouraged people to continue to engage with the Housing Executive: “To determine where they are on the waiting list and put themselves onto the radar. Previous Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey would have moved on giving the Housing Executive the ability to borrow. It has the capacity, but has it the will? It’s time for the Housing Executive to build houses again in this council area.”

Seconder, party Colleague Councillor Sheamus Greene said: “Housing is a fundamental right and should be seen as that for everyone. As it stands it doesn’t seem to be. There are more homeless people now than in the last 40 years. There is great demand, but the Housing Executive is just now starting to build houses again after 30 or 40 years. That’s quite shocking.”

He also drew attention to housing stock which: “Has got into a bad state. I recently read of a child – not in this island – sent home from hospital to a substandard house full of mould and it died. God forbid that happens in our council area, but unless something’s done, it is a possibility.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington said his party supported the motion but added: “Let’s not overlook a critical factor. Which party held the housing ministry? The proposers of this motion belong to the same party.”

He said the party’s call for a “revised definition and assessment of demand begs the question why was this not progressed when they had the power to do so”.

“The undeniable truth is Northern Ireland faces a housing crisis of significant proportions and without corrective intervention this will worsen. This demands a multifaceted approach including an increase in available housing options. Crucially, we must ramp up the construction of houses, a task hindered by the reduced capital budget.”

Addressing the Chamber, Councillor Warrington added: “While plans were announced to revitalise the Housing Executive in 2020 the lack of progress is disappointing. We need a clear plan that recognises social housing as an essential public service, however we must also be candid with the people who have let us down.”

He added that “meaningful change will take time but every party must commit to redoubling their efforts to ensure proactive action”.

“With over 45,000 people on the waiting list across Northern Ireland it’s evident the current rate of social housing falls short.”

Independent Councillor Josephine Deehan “wholeheartedly supported” the motion and emphasised the need for comfortable, safe and affordable housing.

The proposal passed unanimously.