Northern Ireland

Housing crisis deepens with more than 47,000 on waiting list

Over 70% of households are in housing stress

The average UK house price rose by 0.1% in April month-on-month, after a fall of 0.9% in March, according to Halifax
Waiting lists in Northern Ireland have continued to grow (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The number of people waiting for a home in Northern Ireland is continuing to rise, the latest government figures reveal.

As of the end of March 2024 there were 47,312 households on the social housing waiting list with 35,464 households (75%) experiencing housing stress.

Over the last decade, the number of households on the waiting list has increased by 18% from 39,967 and the number of households in housing stress has soared by 64%.

Mark Baillie, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Homeless Connect said that without immediate action and funding the waiting lists for social housing will continue to grow.

He added that a 38.2% cut to the Department for Communities capital budget and a 6% cut to its resource budget will hinder its ability to tackle the crisis.

In January, it was estimated that spending on temporary accommodation will soar to £45.8 million, up from to £7.5m five years ago.

Mr Baillie added that this level of spending was diverting key funds from homelessness prevention.

“The baseline for this budget has been frozen in cash terms for over a decade, being eroded year on year by the impact of inflation. Many providers are struggling to maintain services and in some cases are even considering handing back contracts,” he added.

“These budget allocations will have very real consequences for people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Too many people are finding themselves living with the anxiety of housing instability, living in informal arrangements, unsuitable accommodation or in temporary accommodation.”

Speaking to Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations this week, Minister for Communities Gordon Lyons said that housing needed to be a priority across the Executive if enough homes are to be delivered.

He said that as well as growing waiting lists, rising rents, growing homelessness and the quality of existing housing stock present challenges for the Executive.

“I am in the process of finalising a housing supply strategy that will aim to provide a long-term framework within which we can start to identify the actions needed to address these issues,” added the East Antrim MLA.

“You will be aware of the difficult 2024/25 budget with demands on resources outstripping the funding available many times over.

“I can assure you that I will continue to spend most of my capital budget on the provision of social homes. Building the numbers of homes we need will only be possible if we can secure multi-year budgets and strategically plan for the longer term. I will strongly advocate that housing is prioritised in any of the Executive’s budget discussions.”

He added that his department has already taken forward a number of initiatives including a scheme to deliver affordance homes for rent.