Residents 'left behind' by regeneration

Published Tuesday, 27 November 2012
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Some residents in the Village area of south Belfast have said they feel "forgotten" as a £100 million regeneration plan plunged them into negative equity.

Residents 'left behind' by regeneration
The Village area of south Belfast which is undergoing regeneration. (© UTV)

When the Housing Executive took ownership of their homes two years ago, residents were given a payout.

But with the fall in house prices they were left with a shortfall in the mortgage that will have lasting effects on where they live for years to come.

Under vesting rules, the Housing Executive pays out the market price of the house but for Jane Robinson, who was a first time buyer in 2006, she was left with a debt of £15,000.

"I had seen that as my first step on the property ladder and all of a sudden I was looking at a good few years of paying debt off before being able to even consider starting to save for another house," she told UTV.

"It was hard to give up my home, and lodge in someone else's home. Now I've moved home with my parents to try and save.

I would have been much more reasonable if people had been given enough money to be able then to buy a replacement dwelling.

Jane Robinson

She is one of 25 people left paying out mortgages on the original value of their homes, which are now bricked up or demolished.

The Housing Executive has said it cannot comment on compensation because of a lands tribunal case, which will decide whether those left out of pocket deserve compensation. A decision is due at the end of this week, while bulldozers remove more than 500 homes to make way for the new houses.

Bob Stoker, the local UUP councillor, said the Department of Social Development needs to take a fresh look at the situation and help those who are suffering financially.

"Some people who are in the position of negative equity are being left behind. They're not going to be in a position to purchase a new house and if they can't afford to pay off their mortgage it's highly unlikely they will access private sector rental," he explained.

And although Cllr Stoker said the redevelopment is "coming on very well" he has a stark warning that this situation could be repeated in the coming years.

"I know quite a number of people who've left the area in previous years because of house conditions that have indicated they want to come back again to regenerate and sustain the community.

"But exactly the same thing could happen in north, east and west Belfast where there's future redevelopment planned, so people there are going to be in exactly the same position," he added.

So we have to keep positive and forward thinking, while also reflecting on the needs of individuals as we carry along this process.

Paula Bradshaw

The Minister for Social Development wasn't available for interview, but in a statement he says that 'careful consideration' had been given to the issue - but that compensation is assessed in accordance to legislation and the authorities 'must pay the market value' at the time of vesting.

Paula Bradshaw of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust said she is sympathetic towards those who have been left unsure about their housing future.

"This was always about sustaining the village community. It's a very, very proud, close-knit community here, and we wanted to ensure that there was family housing provided to sustain it into the future."

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Paula Johnston in Belfast wrote (692 days ago):
I am one of the people who has been left in negative equity. I will be left with a debt of over £50,000. While I understand the area does need to be redeveloped I don't think others should have to suffer for it. This debt will seriously affect my family's life and quality of life for the foreseeable future. Property prices were still quite high when this scheme was announced. In the original budget the Housing Executive must have budgeted to purchase the properties at the market value at that time, so the money must still be there even though prices have fallen. The NIHE are hiding behind the legislation and it seems that Stormont are not doing anything to help the people left in debt. Stormont intervened to repay those who had savings and investments with the Presbyterian Mutual Society even though legislation did not allow for this. We invested in a home - why aren't they helping us?
Brian in Beal Feirste wrote (692 days ago):
Sorry to hear that people in the Village have been put out in this way. It doesn't look like Nelson McCausland is up to offering much help, and I'm surprised that Paula Bradshaw doesn't have more to say about a community and its people that she is supposed to be 'regenerating'. Regeneration in Belfast seems to be about the k-ching and not about making a positive difference in ordinary people's lives. Time we put DSD and the rest on notice.
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