Choice Housing announces £28m plan to acquire 429 properties from troubled VHE

Riverdale resident Steven Lavery revealing the disrepair of his VHE property in 2018. Picture by Hugh Russell
Riverdale resident Steven Lavery revealing the disrepair of his VHE property in 2018. Picture by Hugh Russell

SOCIAL housing provider Choice has revealed a £28 million investment plan that would see the company acquire 429 properties from Victoria Housing Estates (VHE) Ltd.

Choice Housing said the move could see it take ownership of all the housing stock in the autumn of 2020 as part of a significant programme of renovations and refurbishments.

The housing association currently manages assets of around £750 million, employing around 300 people.

The move is now subject to a 12 week consultation with tenants, launched on Thursday.

Choice Housing said those who do not wish to move over will have the opportunity to purchase their own home or to remain with VHE for the short-term, however they would not be eligible for the refurbishment.

The proposed deal covers all of VHE’s properties across the north, including Riverdale in west Belfast. Residents in the properties have previously claimed the homes have fallen into a serious state of disrepair.

Benson Street (Lisburn), Worcester Avenue (Bangor), Cherryhill, Holywood Road and Clonaver (east Belfast) and Harmin in Glengormley, will also move to Choice.

Michael McDonnell, chief executive of the housing body said: “This should be welcome news for VHE’s tenants who have long been campaigning for upgrades to their homes.

“By working together to reach an agreement in principle with VHE, we can offer its tenants not only the improvements their homes need but also a long-term and secure social tenancy agreement that will give them the same access to services and support as all of our other 10,000 plus tenants across Northern Ireland.”

Launching the consultation, Dawn Purvis the chief executive of Victoria Housing Estates said: “On taking over responsibility for VHE in October 2016 the all-new management team commissioned a stock survey to assess the status of our 429 properties.

“We discovered that following years of underinvestment the properties fell below the Decent Homes Standard and required millions of pounds of investment to restore each home.

“Unfortunately VHE has not been in a positon to be able to finance this work itself and hasn’t been able to raise the necessary funds, given the large sums required.

“Our tenants have rightly been calling for the improvements to their homes that Choice is now able to offer them through its proposed investment and I am thrilled that this is happening. I hope all our tenants participate fully in the consultation process.

“For those who wish to do so, we are also in a positon to let them buy their own home, something a number of tenants had also requested,” said Ms Purvis.