During Question Time to the Minister for Communities, East Antrim UUP MLA Mr Beggs asked the Minister for Communities to outline the extent of defective cavity wall insulation in Northern Ireland Housing Executive homes.
Responding to the Ulster Unionist Assemblyman, the Communities Minister commented: “There is a UK-wide problem with cavity wall insulation that was installed in the 1980s. The degrading or failure of this insulation affects all housing tenures, not just social housing. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive estimates that around 62,000 of its houses have full cavity wall insulation and a further 9,000 have partial cavity wall insulation. No comprehensive survey of the condition of cavity wall insulation in Housing Executive homes has been undertaken. The Housing Executive will carry out a representative sample of cavity inspections in the future, as part of its cyclical maintenance scheme surveys, to determine whether the cavity has been filled and, if it has, what condition the insulation is in. Dwellings identified, where the cavity wall insulation is deemed to be severely or critically inadequate, will be addressed by the Housing Executive through response maintenance or through the planned maintenance program.”
Mr Beggs pressed the issue by stating “I understand that many Housing Executive homes and former Housing Executive homes were insulated using fibre and that there are particular problems with fibre where it settles and creates voids that can result in a cold home. Even worse, there can be damp fibre, which results in it being a conductor rather than an insulator. Can the Minister assure me that there is adequate training of Housing Executive staff and contractors so that they can quickly identify where damp fibre, which results in the ill health of tenants and in fuel poverty, is a problem?”
In response the Communities Minister said “I am happy to relay those concerns directly to the Housing Executive. I have been in properties where I have been concerned about condensation and the impact it can have on damp, particularly where you have older people or children. It is important that, when we identify those type of severely inadequate facilities, they are responded to. That is something that the Housing Executive does through its response program. Obviously, there is a much longer-term problem with the investment that is needed in Housing Executive stock. In addition to cavity wall insulation, it impacts on a whole range of areas in Housing Executive properties, meaning that there is a need for investment. The public funding is not there to do what is required, which means that alternative solutions need to be put forward.”