Grim figures are revealed in an Assembly reply by McCausland

West tops housing wait list

By Francesca Ryan

West Belfast currently has the longest waiting list for social housing in the whole of the North. The grim figures were released after a question was put to Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland in the Assembly.

Almost 40,000 people in the North are on the waiting list with 2,689 of those people located in the West Belfast Housing Executive district office area. That excludes the figure for the district office for Poleglass which stands at 592, pushing the local figure up to over 3,000. South Belfast is second on the list with 2,439 while the list for North Belfast stands at 2,403. The three districts of Derry combined total is 3,003, while the shortest list is Ballycastle at 325.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Fra McCann says not enough is being done to tackle the problem, adding that the current economic climate is not helping to reduce the lists.

“There are a number of areas throughout the North who continuously feature highly on waiting lists and while the lists continue to increase, fewer houses are getting built,” he said.

“The Housing Executive and housing associations need to be taking this on board. I’ve been concerned for a number of years that unless resources are found to build more houses, the situation will deteriorate.

“The increase in people losing houses through mortgage repossessions adds to the problem, hostels are now packed to capacity and the bulk of people in them are from North and West Belfast.

“The bottom line is that something needs to be done to bring more houses into the social sector.”

The Sinn Féin MLA says he is also concerned at Minister McCausland’s decision to increase Housing Executive rents by one per cent above the rate of inflation.

“This seems to go against the trend of inflation-only increases of previous ministers and comes at a time when people are suffering from the worst economic crisis in many years,” he said.

“I will be asking the Minister to explain the rationale behind this increase. Will the extra money raised be used to increase the quality of Housing Executive stock and address the years of cuts the housing budget has been subjected to?

“It is crucial that any increase in Housing Executive rents is reinvested in the housing stock and projects that will provide much-needed employment in the construction industry.”

A DSD spokesperson said any additional money made will be invested in providing high quality accommodation.

“Rental charges need to be set at affordable levels for tenants on low incomes, but also need to represent good value for money for the accommodation a tenant occupies,” she said.

“The Housing Executive’s stock is currently regarded as the best in the UK and the rent increase reflects this. The additional money raised will be invested in the Housing Executive’s maintenance programmes to ensure that it can continue to provide accommodation that is of the high standard expected by its tenants.”

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