Residents say repairs on Tullycarnet flats 'too little, too late' as work begins
Residents of a "crumbling" block of flats in East Belfast say that repair work is "too little, too late" after years of waiting.
Those living in the flats in Tullycarnet off King's Road had been waiting four years for refurbishment work to be carried out on the buildings which they say is "riddled with damp, mould and mice".
However the Northern Ireland Housing Executive had been unable to get a contractor to carry out the works following two tender processes.
In August, the NIHE Chief Executive met with local residents and representatives, where a plan of action was agreed to carry out some repairs of the flats, which are now finally beginning to take place.
Despite this, residents feel like the work is "too little, too late", and that the work that is needed on the flats are "beyond papering over".
Julie Bloomer, who has lived in the flats for 10 years, said: "For the past four years we have been living and paying rent in these horrible conditions believing that things would be refurbished.
"If this work was carried out quicker, then the flats would not have deteriorated into a worse state and require even more work on them.
"While we are happy to hear that some repairs are being made, although we were not informed of them, it is too little too late and the buildings have so many problems that they are beyond papering over.
"We should have never been in this situation in the first place and now we have to wait to hear about what is going to happen with the flats in the future."
East Belfast MLA, Joanne Bunting, has been engaging with the NIHE regarding the state of the Tullycarnet flats and has said that residents "deserve better" than how they have been treated over the past four years.
She said: "The situation with the King's Road flats has been ongoing for a considerable period and it is disgraceful that people have been left in limbo in this way. For too long they have had the prospect of beautifully renovated flats dangled in front of them, only for it to be snatched away with the commencement of yet another tender process.
"It seems interminable. So far there have been three tender processes, starting back in 2019. Each time, the cost increases but the specification is lowered. The longer the Housing Executive waits, the more difficult and expensive it becomes.
"People just want a decision - either renovate or demolish. They've been waiting for years and in the interim, conditions continue to worsen and degenerate because naturally NIHE does not want to spend significant amounts of money on something which may be demolished.
"Some maintenance work has been undertaken recently as a result of our requests, but ultimately that's tinkering around the edges. Taking a decision on the future of the flats is what is needed. And quickly. I welcome that this is on the agenda again for next month, but we've heard that before and it has resulted in further delays. The decision needs to be about action, not further discussion.
"Residents want to stay in Tullycarnet, they love being part of that community, but they need to know what is happening because they may have to start the lengthy process of being rehoused.
"Some people's homes are immaculate, but they can only do so much when the damp and mould are beyond their control.
"Gavin Robinson and I recently had the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive out to visit tenants and see the flats for herself. We impressed upon her that a quick decision is imperative. She was left in no doubt about it and appeared to understand the importance and need to make a determination one way or the other. Even after a decision, implementation will still take time and all the while, tenants are left waiting.
"We raise it in every meeting with NIHE and I have written again at the start of this week. We will continue to push hard and work for our constituents on this until there is a resolution. They deserve better than to live in what have been dubbed 'the flats from hell'."
The NIHE has said that an economic appraisal regarding the future of the block of flats is due to be presented to its board next month.
A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “Our Chief Executive and other staff met with local representatives a few weeks ago and a series of actions were agreed.
“These included work to repair roofs, upgrade work to communal hallways, including lighting and painting and we are also examining options to improve security.
“Some of this work is already underway and we will soon appoint contractors to deliver more
“Our staff have been on site this week, both for inspection and preparation of improvement works.
“An Economic Appraisal regarding the future of these blocks is planned to be presented to our Board for their consideration next month.”