Belfast Telegraph

Minister questioned over east’s vacant housing land

By Lauren Mulvenny

Questions on the availability of land for social housing development in east Belfast have been put to the Minister for Social Development.

Lord Wallace Browne MLA submitted the questions as part of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s weekly written question system.

Speaking to The CT, Lord Browne said he had submitted the questions as part of an on-going campaign to tackle the housing “crisis” in east Belfast.

“East Belfast has a shortage of social housing and it is reaching crisis levels,” he said.

“It is a very desirable area to live. When the house prices were rising it was hard to get social housing in the area.

“But east Belfast does have a big waiting list and the area should be made a priority for new builds.”

In replying to the questions Minister Margaret Ritchie revealed that the Housing Executive currently has undeveloped land in Knocknagoney, Gilnahirk and the Lower Braniel.

She added: “These sites are programmed for transfer to Housing Associations for provision of social housing.”

Lord Browne questioned further the number of housing associations currently working within east Belfast, and if they had any plans for developing social housing in the area.

In her reply Minister Ritchie indicated that there are currently 17 housing associations active in east Belfast, including Helm, Oaklee and Open Door.

However Minister Ritchie said the Housing Executive “is unable to confirm details of programmes of activity beyond the current financial year as funding for 2010/11 and beyond has not yet been announced”.

Commenting on the answers he received, Lord Browne added: “We want to assess if the land is available and, if it is, it is important for the Housing Executive and local housing executives to utilise this.”

Latest figures from the Housing Executive, confirmed in September 2009, show there are 1,931 applicants on the waiting list for houses in east Belfast. Of that figure, 1,000 are deemed to be in Housing Stress, when an applicant has more than 30 points.

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