North Down MLA Alex Easton led a debate in the Assembly calling on the Minister for Communities to take firm action to resolve the issue of damp and mould within the current Housing Executive stock as a matter of urgency. The motion was passed unanimously by MLAs.
Speaking after the debate the Independent Unionist MLA said unacceptable conditions were damaging people’s health and wellbeing.
He said, “People across Northern Ireland are living in misery caused by damp and mould within their homes. The majority of these are rented from landlords, in particular the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
This is a chronic and ongoing problem blighting the lives of thousands of people across Northern Ireland. A few years ago the then Minister for Communities revealed to me that over 25,000 cases of damp had been reported to the Housing Executive over a four year period. Those figures are both staggering and entirely unacceptable.
Someone’s home should be their refuge, but many people are left embarrassed by their living conditions, whilst many others have their health impacted. Nearly one in five people in Northern Ireland are affected by lung conditions, with damp and mould being key triggers for asthma attacks.
Faced with severe health problems and entirely unacceptable conditions, the answer tenants receive is to open windows or stop drying clothes on radiators. One of the major issues however is cavity wall insulation, with mineral wool used in many NIHE properties in the 1980s. Its use has now been discontinued because it retains water and is likely to cause issues with damp. We know that nearly two-thirds of NIHE stock do not have cavity wall insulation that meets current standards.
The Assembly is debating climate change legislation that will set targets for energy efficiency. As Northern Ireland’s biggest landlord, NIHE should be leading the way on this and action must be taken on cavity wall insulation in its properties.
MLAs from across the political spectrum shared similar case-studies throughout this debate. It is a problem impacting on every single constituency. I hope the Minister for Communities listened to some of the heart-breaking stories highlighted in the debate and will take action on this area as a matter of priority.”