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HOUSING FUNDS FALL BY pounds 200M; Minister's building crisis.

Byline: BY STEVEN MCCAFFERY

THE collapse in property prices will cost housing minister Margaret Ritchie pounds 200million over the next two years, she confirmed yesterday.

And in a move that may hit small building firms the minister said she would have to cut the money spent on maintenance work on Housing Executive homes.

Ms Ritchie unveiled her budget plans for the next year and said earnings she hoped to make from property and land sales have plummeted because of the credit crunch.

Faced with a choice of funding maintenance contracts or building new homes, she told the Assembly's Committee for Social Development that she had opted to share resources between the two areas.

She added: "The impact of the economic crisis has been particularly severe on the housing budget. This is forecast to continue over the next two years.

"I cannot overstate the seriousness of this situation, with an estimated shortfall of around pounds 100million in each of the next two years.

"Pressures on funding for the social housing development programme will impact on the target for the number of new build units which can be delivered.

"The shortfall in funding in 2008/09 has already resulted in 400 units not being started and this carried forward into 2009/10, putting even further pressure on the budget."

She added: "Very significant shortfalls are still anticipated in the levels of Housing Executive receipts on house and land sales.

"House sales have virtually ceased, reflecting the high value of homes, the credit squeeze and the unavailability of mortgages to first time buyers.

"The value of land sales has also dropped dramatically, again reflecting the credit squeeze and the general lack of commercial confidence."

The minister said the financial pressures were inescapable, but said new houses were needed. She said: "I have considered a number of options but essentially the issue crystallises around whether to hold back on Housing Executive capital maintenance and improvements, while keeping the new build programme credible.

Ms Ritchie added she would lobby the Finance Minister Nigel Dodds to help prioritise housing.

400

NEW BUILD UNITS WERE DUE TO BE STARTED BUT HAVE NOT GONE AHEAD BECAUSE OF CRISIS

2011

MINISTER HOPES SHE WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE UP THE SHORTFALL IN TWO YEARS
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 27, 2009
Words:375
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