Northern Ireland

New social housing builds set to plummet to lowest level since 2009

Only 400 new units are set to be built, an 80% cut to the initial target of 2,050

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
Northern Ireland's housing waiting list now has over 47,000 households awaiting placement (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The number of new social homes being built is set to drop to the lowest level since 2009, it has been revealed.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons said his department’s budget allocation would “severely constrain” the number of new social housing starts.

The East Antrim MLA saw his department’s capital budget cut by 38% in April.

Launching his department’s proposed budget allocation earlier in the week, Mr Lyons said that the budget had resulted in “significant shortfalls” for his department, including a £167.3m capital shortfall.

The impact of the department’s reduced capital budget on social housing was revealed during Thursday’s meeting of the Assembly Committee for Communities.

It was revealed that only 400 units would be started this year, an 80% cut to the initial target of 2,050.

This will be the lowest number of new social builds since 2009, and stands in stark contrast to the 1,506 new builds started during 2023/24 and 1,956 the year before.

The housing crisis in the north has continued to deepen in recent years with 47,312 households now on the social housing waiting list, 75% of which are deemed to be in housing stress.

The first three months of the year alone saw 851 new applicants added to the waiting list.

Seamus Leheny, chief executive of the NI Federation of Housing Associations, said it was a “devastating budget”.

This year’s budget will result in a grant allocation of £31.5m to new social builds, compared to £184m allocated last year.

Mr Leheny added: “In reality the housing waiting list and the social housing budget are going in different directions, at a rapid pace.

“While figures showed an 18% increase in the number of applicants on the waiting list over the last ten years, the budget available for new build social housing is shrinking and today’s decision will lead to a 73% reduction in the number of new build homes compared to last year.

“If this is not addressed then the Assembly is in reality waving a white flag and accepting that we cannot realistically provide housing for our citizens in need.”

Nicola McCrudden, CEO of Homeless Connect, said: “I am not sure how the NI Executive plans to turn the curve on homelessness when the target for 2024/25 was to start over 2,000 units – it simply doesn’t add up.

“While the impact will not be felt in the short term, in the medium term this will further constrain housing supply and create more pressure on an already fragile housing system.

“Homeless Connect will call at every opportunity for additional funding for more social homes to be built here.”