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By Kieran Hughes

The Housing Executive’s District Housing Plan for the incoming year fails to address how the chronic waiting lists for social housing in Nationalist areas of North Belfast will be tackled, a local housing expert has said.

Séan Brady, Development Worker at the Participation and the Practice of Rights, was speaking after the launch of the Plan yesterday (Wednesday) which promises £90 million investment in various schemes across the city in the coming year.

Speaking at the launch the HE’s Chief Executive Dr John McPeake said one of their main priorities is “to provide accommodation for those in housing need in the city”.

“In order to tackle this need we have an active new build programme and in Belfast 384 new social homes were started last year. Some 450-500 new homes are programmed to be provided through this year’s programme,” he said.

Séan Brady said the test of any District Housing Plan will be whether it has “concrete, budgeted and timetabled plans to address the inequality experienced by Catholics in North Belfast”.

Catholics make up the vast majority of those on the housing waiting list in North Belfast.

“Once again, the NIHE’s District Housing Plan for the next year fails to show how the unacceptable levels of inequality experienced by Catholics in dire need of housing will be addressed,” he said.

“In fact, going by DSD and NIHE decisions taken over the last five years – for example reducing annual social housing new build by 29 per cent in North Belfast and reinforcing inequality in housing new builds and allocations through the creation City Centre Waiting List – all the signs are that inequality is going to increase.

“Add these to the recent Girdwood decision, and the prospects for Catholics in need of housing in North Belfast are diminishing rapidly.

“This is why residents from North Belfast have been going door-to-door collecting signatures calling on the Minister to build and allocate housing on the basis of need.

“This is supported by an on-line petition and a campaign DVD released this week and further actions will be coming.”

He said that providing concrete, budgeted and timetabled plans to address the inequality experienced is the law.

“As the NIHE have not published these details, PPR will be submitting a Freedom of Information request to the NIHE asking for this detailed evidence.

We will make the NIHE’s response available to North Belfast residents through our website and the North Belfast News.”

Speaking on their investment Dr McPeake said “current economic circumstances continue to present unprecedented challenges with reduced overall investment in housing, lack of capital receipts from house and land sales and increasing number of people applying for social housing and housing benefit”.

“There are also over 20,300 applicants on the social housing waiting list deemed to be in urgent housing need; including over 9,000 accepted as statutorily homeless.”

 

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