Criteria for new schemes queried as unionist areas win out despite crisis existing in nationalist areas

Housing pilot schemes go to unionist areas

By Staff Reporter

A housing regeneration scheme rubberstamped by a North Belfast DUP minister will be launched in unionist areas of his constituency despite the housing crisis in neighbouring nationalist areas.

Documents obtained by the North Belfast News on the ‘Facing the Future – Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland’ contain proposals to pilot what the Department of Social Development (DSD) say is “a housing led approach to the regeneration of communities experiencing blight, dereliction and decline.” The proposals are to be launched next Wednesday (August 7).

However questions have been asked as to why of the two schemes coming to North Belfast, both will to go unionist areas when levels of housing deprivation are at crisis levels in nationalist areas. Tigers Bay/Mountcollier and Lower Oldpark/Hillview will benefit from the schemes that the documents say “will develop solutions which reverse decline and create sustainable communities”. Work will be carried out to refurbish homes and infrastructure along with programmes to improve educational achievement and employment opportunities.

The other two areas to be included in the pilot are Doury Road Estate in Ballymena and the Divis/Albert Street area. However the criteria used by the DSD to select the areas been questioned.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said his party will be seeking a meeting with the Minister to ascertain what criteria were used to choose the pilot areas.

“It’s my understanding that Minister McCausland is unveiling a regeneration pilot scheme next week for four areas across the North of Ireland. Out of the four areas being targeted, three are unionist areas, two of which are in his own constituency here in North Belfast.

“I’m sure that any reasonable person looking at these proposals would want to know how the areas were selected and what criteria was used given the fact that wards of highest deprivation are mostly nationalist. Sinn Féin will be seeking a meeting with the Minister to have the key questions answered at the earliest opportunity.”

The Sinn Féin MLA added regeneration was to be welcomed but areas in greatest need should be dealt with first.

“Of course Sinn Féin fully support the regeneration of deprived communities but this has to be on the basis of targeting the greatest objective need and in North Belfast the overwhelming housing need remains in the nationalist community.”

A spokesperson for the DSD said  they wouldn’t be making any comment on the selection criteria ahead of next week’s launch.

 

By Evan Short

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