Northern Ireland news

Calls for north Belfast housing inquiry

Housing campaigner Frank Dempsey and Gerard Brophy pictured at Frederick Street Car park. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

CAMPAIGNERS in north Belfast have called for a full inquiry into housing provision in the district.

The call comes after residents in the area raised their concerns with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley. Local people say they wrote to Ms Bradley in June and then again last month after they received no response.

In the past campaigners in the north of the city have criticised the lack of social housing in nationalist areas.

They have also raised concerns after several sites initially zoned for social housing were subsequently re-designated for private development.

These include a site linked to the Northside Regeneration project, which included plans to build student accommodation close to the nearby Ulster University campus. The plan suffered a blow in 2016 when the Department for Social Development withdrew support.

Campaigners have also raised concerns about the role of the university after a carpark on Frederic Street, originally zoned for social housing, was later approved for a multi-storey car park linked to the campus.

A letter sent by lawyers on behalf of local resident and member of St Patrick's and St Joseph's Housing Association, Gerard Brophy, urged Ms Bradley to help find a solution.

"The continuing failure in providing adequate social housing calls for a fully independent and objective investigation and/or inquiry at the highest level," he said.

"It is that particular issue that we wish to engage you on and it is one that we would invite your comments on as to how such an important and vital aspect of government policy can be properly implemented and delivered in this jurisdiction."

Local campaigner Frank Dempsey said more action is needed.

"We are calling for an inquiry presided over by a judicial figure about how people in north Belfast are being denied housing here," he said.

"This is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights association and here we are still shouting about inequality in socials housing, nothing has changed."

Solicitor Paul Pearce from KRW Law said the issue of social housing in north Belfast is "one of the most contentious political issues which continues to cause division".

"On behalf of our client we have now decided to engage directly with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland so she can involve herself in the addressing this long standing process."

A Northern Ireland Office spokeswoman said: "We received the correspondence in September and will respond shortly".

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