Upper Bann is in ‘housing crisis’ with current rate of build ‘woefully inadequate’

The current rate of building social houses in Upper Bann is ‘woefully inadequate’ says SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 5:01 pm

Figures Mrs Kelly received via Assembly Questions from the Department for Commmunities showed just 1,304 new social homes built in NI in 20/21 with almost 45k applicants on social housing waiting lists.

Mrs Kelly said: “The figures show that at the current building rate it would take over 34 years to clear the existing waiting lists.

“There were four social houses built in Upper Bann in 2020/21. As of June 2021 there were 2,908 applicants on social housing waiting lists in Upper Bann and 1,756 in housing stress.”

Mrs Kelly said the current strategy from Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey would see waiting lists get even longer and plunge applicants into more misery.

“The growing numbers on social housing waiting lists indicate the scale of the housing crisis now facing the North. Social housing is only one aspect of housing need here in the North and things are only getting worse, particularly in light of the added pressures brought to the sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“How can we tell families in Upper Bann living in overcrowded properties, staying with family and friends, or people with disabilities in properties wholly unsuitable to their needs, that it will take decades to tackle the housing waiting list? The current rate of building is falling woefully short of meeting demand.

“Tackling this crisis demands creative thinking- the Housing Supply Strategy and Private Tenancies Bill will hopefully play their part, but drastic action must be taken before housing demand spirals even further out of control. Minister Hargey needs to get a grip on this issue.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “We remain committed to delivering new social housing in the Upper Bann area to meet housing need. Housing associations are actively submitting proposals and we continue to work with our colleagues to identify potential sites. One of the impacts of Covid-19 has witnessed an increase in demand for social housing.

“We have identified a requirement for 604 new homes across the Borough over the period 2021-2026 to help meet demand. There has been 20 social housing completions to-date this year in Upper Bann, and we currently have 102 social housing units under construction. We have 102 social housing units programmed to start as part of the Social Housing Development Programme 2021/22 – 2023/24.

“More housing schemes may be added for Upper Bann; however, this will be subject to Housing Executive Board and Departmental/Ministerial approval.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “Minister Hargey has begun the biggest reform of social housing in over 50 years. This includes building more homes, where they are needed. When the transformational plan to make our housing system better was outlined, a key component was to improve housing, and to make sure there is a lot more of it.

“This includes delivering more homes that meet the needs of our society, now and in the future. The Minister has also delivered, in 20/21, 2403 new social starts (the highest annual figure for over a decade) and an increased new build budget for this year. This £162m investment will help to build many more homes. The Minister plans to reintroduce ring-fencing, which means money will be protected to prioritise new social housing in areas of highest need.”

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