Residents 'left behind' by regeneration

The Village area of south Belfast which is undergoing regeneration.

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.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012
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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."