Belfast Telegraph

Housing shortage is at ‘crisis point’

by Natalie Irvine

Local politicians are warning that east Belfast’s housing shortage is at crisis point.

DUP MLA Robin Newton said he despaired of there being a resolution to the problem, with over 900 people deemed to be in housing stress.

“Housing is a major problem in east Belfast,” he said. “People will look at the figures and say east Belfast isn’t as badly off as west or north Belfast, but the difference is in east Belfast there’s a continually growing list, and there are no plans to address the shortfall in housing.”

With almost 2,000 applicants on the waiting list, there could be up to 6,000 people affected once families are taken into account.

“If people could see that there was a prospect of a plan to build several hundred houses in a small estate or development, and knew the housing list was coming down, it would help,” he said.

UUP councillor Michael Copeland concurred. He said: “I have 6,000 names on my computer of people looking for housing. There are 150,000 in Northern Ireland in need of housing, and there are empty properties all over east Belfast that could be used.

“A stable society is based on a stable home, and the government need to recognise this and need to seriously consider making appropriate investment in housing through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.”

A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said uncertainty in terms of the housing budget meant it had had to hold off on some improvement schemes, but that its top priority was to meet housing need.

“The Housing Executive has recognised that there has been increasing demand for housing in east Belfast in recent years,” she said.

“Over the last three years, 343 new homes have been started by housing associations in east Belfast, including key schemes such as Connswater and Harland Walk. Almost 300 new build starts are programmed for 2010, including the conversion of the former Mersey Street Primary School.

“At present there are 935 housing applicants in housing stress on the waiting list for the area — a decrease from 1,072 two years ago.

“Despite the large number of new builds recently, the Housing Executive still recognises that 1,000 new homes will need to be built over the next five years to meet the rising demand, and one of our immediate priorities is to identify land in the area which is suitable for housing.”

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