Belfast Telegraph

Political spat over housing list

Sinn Fein has lodged a complaint with the Equality Commission accusing Northern Ireland's housing minister of failing to address a waiting list "crisis" which is hitting Catholics hardest.

Republicans said this was the first time a political party has made a complaint of this nature to the Commission.

The party is partners in government at Stormont with minister Nelson McCausland's DUP but its criticism of his Social Development Department has become increasingly trenchant.

South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said: "This is the first time as far as we know that a political party has made a complaint to the commission using this aspect of the legislation.

"There is a housing crisis in the North. It is by far hitting Catholic families hardest who are on the social housing list. The minister and his department are failing to address this."

He said the extent of the issue had not been acknowledged.

Sinn Fein's submission to the commission said: "Sinn Fein regards the review of social housing allocation policy as fundamentally flawed, first, because it failed to identify current policy failures in relation to equality of opportunity and second, the implementation of many of their proposals will exacerbate rather than alleviate those failures."

Mr McCausland said the need for social housing in nationalist and unionist communities in North Belfast was roughly the same.

Figures from the Housing Executive confirm there are 1,994 Protestants and 1,988 Catholics on the waiting list.

He added: "Sinn Fein, for whatever reason, refuse to accept facts that are beyond dispute.

"My aim is to build more houses for all our citizens irrespective of religious or political persuasion and I have already put plans in place to make that a reality."

Last year almost 1,300 new social homes were delivered. This year the minister plans to deliver 2,000 and the same again for each of the next two years.

"That is my commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and I will not be deflected by grandstanding from Sinn Fein who continue to go over the same old ground again and again."

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