Northern Ireland news

Social housing need '26 times greater' in Catholic area of north Belfast compared to Protestant area

The social housing shortage is greater in nationalist areas of north Belfast
Rory Winters

THE need for social housing in a Catholic area of north Belfast is 26 times greater than in a neighbouring Protestant area, latest figures reveal.

According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) the area known as ‘North Belfast One' (NB1) – which is made up of predominantly Catholic neighbourhoods such as Ardoyne and Carrick Hill – showed an average need of 1,041 homes in 2018/19.

When compared with ‘North Belfast Two' (NB2) – which includes mainly Protestant areas, such as Mount Vernon and White City – there was an average need of just 40 homes over the same period.

This means that 96 per cent of the social housing requirement in north Belfast, in 2018/19, was in the mostly Catholic areas.

That figure has grown steadily since 2015/16 when 690 homes were required, according to investigative website The Detail.

While Sinn Féin are in charge of the housing portfolio under communities minister (DfC) Deirdre Hargey, the department was previously the responsibility of the DUP from 2011 until 2017 until the executive collapsed.

Lobby group Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), has told of its concern at the housing shortage in the north of the city, particularly in nationalist areas.

"Until we accept there is a problem, there is never going to be a solution," said Elfie Seymour.

Under a Freedom of Information request, PPR found that between January 2016 and July 2019 the NIHE chief executive Clark Bailie met political representatives 41 times - including 15 meetings with the North Belfast DUP.

There were no official agendas for the 41 meetings and no official minutes or notes were taken.

Ms Seymour voiced concerns that meetings had taken place where no minutes were recorded.

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey, who said she was “very concerned by the housing inequalities highlighted'' and also said she would raise the matter of note-taking with the Housing Executive.

"I will be writing to NIHE urgently seeking explanation and to ensure that there is no repeat of such practices.''

A spokesman for the NIHE said that properties are in limited supply in areas of greatest need such as NB1, adding that since 2007 1,869 new social homes have been “acquired or built in north Belfast”.

He said it would now be reviewing "current record keeping practice in light of the minister's comments" and officials will engage with the DfC about this issue.

A DUP spokesperson said the party's north Belfast representatives were “renowned for their active representation on behalf of their constituents”.

:: For full story go to The Detail at www.thedetail.tv/investigations

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