Housing Executive tower block substitute could cost £225 million

Divis Tower in West Belfast.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Divis Tower in West Belfast.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Decommissioning of the Housing Executive’s tower blocks and rehousing tenants could cost £225 million over the next 30 years, the organisation said.

High maintenance costs and fire risk means many of the high-rise residential properties centred in the Belfast area are earmarked for closure.

They were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are largely owned by the Housing Executive.

They primarily house mature single, two-person and elderly households, a review for the public housing body said.

Demographic and housing market change has resulted in under-occupation, although the general level of satisfaction remains good, the Tower Blocks Draft Action Plan Briefing said.

The report noted “uncertainty” regarding the future impact of changes to welfare reform on demand for the blocks.

The projected 30-year maintenance and management bill is £309 million, representing a cost per flat of £84,000.

The report said: “The projected costs far exceeds rental income. There is limited potential to reduce costs and increase income.”

As a result the long-term aspiration is to stop using all blocks.

A 30-year estimate of costs associated with the wind down came to £225 million and included planned investment, maintenance, management, payment to tenants for loss of home and disturbance, demolition and new building.

The Housing Executive report said: “Significant funding issues... will require discussion with the Department for Communities.”

The Housing Executive has 33 tower blocks in Northern Ireland.

Last year an independent review recommended a number of safety improvements and identified issues with fire doors and ventilation.

It also called for the installation of sprinklers in all towers.

The review was ordered after the Grenfell fire tragedy in London which killed 71 people.