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Analysis: Housing system open to abuse by criminal thugs at the expense of families

Police guard a boarded up home in Ballysillan Avenue after residents flee following terror attacks. Picture by Hugh Russell.

THE plight of young families, some with small children, hastily packing belongings to leave their homes in north Belfast due to a threat from a criminal gang will shock many.

Families, who had already established themselves in the newly built houses, have been under relentless attack for the past two weeks.

The reason for the intimidation does not fit the usual criteria; this is neither sectarian nor racist, instead this is terror being wielded nightly upon terrified families for just one reason.

The thugs responsible - who are known to The Irish News and police - are a well known criminal drugs gang with links to the LVF.

The simple fact is they want the new homes in Ballysillan Avenue for themselves and think tht by harassing those, rightly allocated the properties, they will scam their way into the now boarded up houses.

Manipulation of the housing waiting list is no new thing.

Social housing is allocated on a point system, intended to do away with the kind of discrimination that sparked the Civil Rights Movement.

Intimidation points are awarded to those under threat every year. Among the hundreds of genuine cases are those who manipulate the system to get ahead of every one and straight to the top of the housing list.

Members of paramilitary groups and criminal gangs are known to orchestrate false threats to secure precious housing stock ahead of genuine cases.

This often enables them to build up power bases of friends and supporters in small housing estates where law abiding residents live in fear.

The current criteria for allocating points to those in housing need is under review. How to verify genuine threats of intimidation will present considerable challenges for those tasked with redesigning the system.

However, this will be of little comfort to the five families from Ballysillan now forced to leave their much loved homes because of the actions of a handful of criminal thugs.

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