Housing bosses admit two Belfast multi-million regeneration schemes are in areas of “low to medium need”

North Belfast’s areas of most pressing housing need have been ignored by the new pilot project North Belfast’s areas of most pressing housing need have been ignored by the new pilot project
By Evan Short

The Department for Social Development has admitted that a regeneration pilot scheme in North Belfast is being carried out in areas of “low to medium need”.

Two areas of North Belfast – Tigers Bay/Mountcollyer and Lower Oldpark – are to have millions of pounds pumped into them as part of a scheme targeting run-down areas.

However, nationalist politicians have raised questions as to why these areas were chosen for investment when nationalist areas of North Belfast face much greater need.

Six areas across the north have been chosen for the scheme – four unionist and two nationalist – with public consultation beginning this month.

Last year the North Belfast News revealed that homes in the lower Oldpark were being given to families with zero points due to a lack of demand for housing in the area. But this new scheme will ensure yet more new homes are made available in this area.

The pilot schemes, announced two years ago by then DSD Minister Nelson McCausland attracted controversy as two of the six schemes were in his North Belfast constituency. The admission by the DSD that those two schemes are in areas with low housing demand has put the project back in the spotlight.

Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said she remains unhappy at how the areas were chosen.

“When this pilot regeneration scheme was first mooted by the then Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland there was considerable uproar about the nature, objectives and location of the pilot scheme in question, this in a constituency suffering considerable deprivation disproportionately affecting nationalists,” she said. “Sinn Féin’s consistent view is that deprivation and need should be addressed regardless of creed and that unionist areas requiring investment and regeneration should be supported on the same objective basis as nationalist areas.”

Housing rights group PPR said they were concerned the scheme hadn’t been subject to an equality impact assessment.

“We were concerned that the plans were not subject to an equality impact assessment and that building homes in areas of low need would divert resources away from money which could be spent building homes where they are needed,” said a spokesperson.

A DSD spokeswoman said: “In order to determine the areas for inclusion, the Department began by selecting areas of deprivation that were designated as either Neighbourhood Renewal Areas or Areas at Risk. Indicators that reflect social housing market failure and the need for regeneration were then considered, i.e. void stock, low or medium projected housing need and the amount of vacant land in the Housing Executive’s ownership within each area that could potentially be utilised to develop new housing.

“The six pilot areas were considered to be those that both scored among those most in need according to the regeneration indicators, and that required additional intervention above that already planned or existing. To enable this approach to be fully tested the pilots also cover a range of contexts such as higher and lower population and differing housing problems.”

The Lower Olpark/Hillview plans will be on display at the Vine Centre, Crumlin Road between November 11 and 15. Residents from Tigers Bay and Mountcollyer will be able to view their specific proposals between November 20 and 27 at the Duncairn Community Centre, Upper Mervue Street.