Social Housing (Harmony Hill Community Group & Lambeg & District Rarepayers Association).
Social Housing (Harmony Hill Community Group & Lambeg & District Rarepayers Association).

RESIDENTS in Lambeg are angry that Clanmil Housing Association plans to introduce social housing in the Mountview area.

On Wednesday night anger spilled over when graffiti, claiming to be written by ‘loyalists’, was daubed over the houses in Mountview Drive.

The content of the graffiti was not suitable for publication.

The graffiti appeared after it was revealed that the Housing Association are buying houses in the area, which were formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Local residents say there has been little consultation about the scheme, which they fear will disrupt the settled nature of Lambeg.

They are also gravely concerned that while only 37 houses have been bought at this stage, the MoD owns hundreds of houses in the area, which, if turned into social housing will completely alter the demographic of that part of the city.

Maurice Robinson from the Lambeg and District Ratepayers Association met with local politicians this week to discuss the scheme and to convey the rising anger from local residents.

“There has been a real lack of community consultation, both from the MoD and from Clanmil,” said Mr Robinson.

“There is a lot of anger in the community and whilst the scale of it at the minute may seem small, there is the potential for it to expand greatly. This could just be the beginning. That is a big concern for us.”

Mr Robinson said residents are also concerned about the type of people that may be allocated the houses. He acknowledges that while there are many genuine, sincere people on the housing waiting list, there is also the potential for “undesirables” to move to the area.

“While nobody in the area is opposed to social housing, there is a lot of concern about where those people could be drawn from.

“There are serious ongoing issues in other housing association estates in Lisburn and we fear the same thing could happen here.”

Mr Robinson continued: “There is a groundswell of anger in the area and a desire for a public meeting to be held to discuss the plans. We have also set up a dedicated email address so that people in the area can share their views on the social housing scheme. We have already had a lot of contact from residents and we would encourage everyone to get in touch and share their views. The address is communityinput@hotmail.co.uk.”

Local politicians have also raised serious concerns about the scheme by Clanmil. Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig met with residents this week to listen to their concerns. He also hit out at Clanmil Housing Association, criticising them for their lack of community consultation on the issue. Mr Craig also appealed for calm in the area after the graffiti appeared earlier this week.

“The management of this evolving situation by Clanmil is totally unacceptable,” said Mr Craig. “As a housing association Clanmil are obliged to consult widely with residents and groups within an area prior to a proposal to purchase land or houses.

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“As an elected representative I was shocked when community groups and elected representatives were informed by Clanmil of their intentions to complete the purchase by Christmas.

“There are serious implications for this settled area if these plans go ahead and in light of the many other Ministry of Defence properties in the area, the sale of further properties could follow.”

He added: “Lessons should have been learnt by housing associations in the past but unfortunately Clanmil are pursuing this proposal swiftly.”

Lisburn North councillor Yvonne Craig said she was shocked when she heard about the planned housing scheme: “The nature and way this has been carried out by the MoD is reprehensible given the fact that right throughout the period of the Troubles the people in Harmony Hill have been very supportive of the army and their personnel, who not only lived in this community but integrated into it having their children educated at the local primary schools.

“Given all of this, it has come as a huge shock to the community in Harmony Hill that, given such a high level of support for the army, the MoD would take this decision without consulting the local community.”

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan said the “lack of transparency” throughout the process has let to anger in the local community. “As an elected representative I was only advised last week of a proposal by Clanmil to purchase properties from the Ministry of Defence,” said Mr Givan. “The lack of transparency demonstrated by them and other relevant agencies has caused a significant reaction within the settled community in the Harmony Hill area.”

In response to the concerns of residents, a spokesperson for Clanmil Housing Association said: “As one of Northern Ireland’s leading housing associations, Clanmil is committed to increasing the provision of good homes for rent throughout Northern Ireland and is continually seeking opportunities to make available more affordable high quality homes in areas of housing need.

“Wherever we provide homes we work hard to build positive relationships with the local community.

“Clanmil has over 30 years experience in housing management and own and manage more than 3,000 homes throughout Northern Ireland,” she concluded.