Belfast Telegraph

Concentrate on homes for Catholics in north Belfast: Executive

By Noel McAdam

Nine out of 10 future ‘new build’ homes in north Belfast should be in mainly Catholic areas, the Housing Executive has said.

Current waiting lists show 74% of tenants are from a Catholic background and 26% are Protestant.

The figures come as the details of a deal between the four main Executive parties on the use of the former Girdwood Barracks site remained under wraps.

Politicians have yet to clarify the scale of new housing on the site, with early estimates suggesting relatively modest plans for new homes on either side of the religious interface.

Critics have described the deal as a carve-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein, instead of housing being allocated on the basis of need.

Speculation that the parts for the site earmarked for housing could amount to 70 homes for Catholics and 30 homes for Protestants could not be confirmed by the Department for Social Development, which has responsibility for housing, or the Housing Executive yesterday.

But the housing authority, which made clear it had not been part of the recent announcement on Girdwood, said: "The housing needs assessment over a five-year period... would indicate that 90% of future new build in north Belfast should be in perceived Catholic areas and the remaining 10% in perceived Protestant areas."

The Executive will now appoint a housing association to take the Girdwood project forward, but has previously supported proposals for 200 homes on the site. Former Social Development Minister Alex Attwood announced plans for 220 homes on the site, but the proposal was binned by his successor, Nelson McCausland of the DUP, in what Sinn Fein branded a "sectarian decision".

After a stalemate of almost six years, however, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the DUP and Ulster Unionists finally agreed to the new masterplan.

It also involves a community hub with education, business and shared space elements on the site.

Nationalist politicians in north Belfast yesterday defended the agreement against criticism that the Girdwood project departs from the principle of housing allocation on the basis of need.

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly told Radio Ulster: "We now have a masterplan which is workable — which is the important thing."

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