The Secretary of State is being urged to take action to progress the completion of a long-awaited transfer of 59 former Ministry of Defence (MoD) homes in Lisburn to a housing association.
More than 250 residents of the Mountview Drive and Skyline Drive areas of the city have signed a petition calling on Karen Bradley to intervene in order to kick-start the stalled process.
A business case for the transfer of the disused properties – formerly army accommodation that was declared surplus to requirements by the MoD and transferred to the Department for Communities in January 2017 – was approved several months ago, but the handover has still not taken place.
Clanmil Housing Group, supported by local political representatives, has been trying to secure the transfer of the houses – thought to be worth around £5 million – for well over a year.
The housing association plans to refurbish the properties, many of which have been vandalised or fallen into disrepair, and bring them back into use as social and affordable housing.
In June this year it was revealed that the transfer had been put on hold in the wake of legal action concerning an unconnected matter which raised questions about the ability of senior civil servants to make decisions in the absence of elected ministers.
At that time, the Department for Communities said it was considering how it could proceed with the transfer, without the approval of a Stormont minister.
Now, disgruntled residents living in the area are appealing to Karen Bradley to intervene in the matter.
Local resident Sophie Bagguley, who organised the petition, said: “The community has rallied behind this call on the Secretary of State to act now so that these homes can be made available for occupation. There are young people desperate to be housed in their local community and it is unacceptable that these properties can’t be occupied because we don’t have a government to take that decision.”
Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who will pass the petition on to the Secretary of State, said it was “a shame” that the houses were being allowed to lie vacant when so many people are in need of housing.
“I will be urging the Northern Ireland Office to include this type of decision within the scope of the legislation to be introduced in the absence of a functioning Assembly. It is important for the transfer of these houses to be approved as soon as possible,” he said.