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£146m to build 1,850 new houses in Northern Ireland not enough but it's a start, says minister Deirdre Hargey

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Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

A total of £146m is being invested to build 1,850 new homes across Northern Ireland this year, the Communities Minister has said.

Deirdre Hargey, writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, says she is committed to creating new homes as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement to reduce waiting lists. The minister's pledge comes as it was recently revealed there are more than 20,000 people registered as homeless here - while just over 19,000 houses lie vacant.

Last December the Foyle constituency had the highest levels of homelessness, with 2,526 applicants on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive waiting list holding 'full duty applicant' (FDA) status.

This applies to those deemed to be in priority need of housing. West Belfast and North Belfast also have high levels of homelessness, with 2,373 and 2,352 applicants holding FDA status respectively.

The problem is less prevalent in Mid Ulster, West Tyrone and Strangford, with 432, 530 and 658 people on the waiting list.

"Housing is a basic need and right for all. Public housing will be a priority in this strategy," said the Sinn Fein minister.

However, she stressed that the £146m investment is just the starting point in tackling the issue.

"I am aware this is not enough, and I'm committed to building more homes," explained Ms Hargey.

The Communities Minister also stressed she is committed to introducing a strategy to tackle poverty here, including the extension of legislation to prevent the introduction of the controversial bedroom tax, a charge which she branded "unjust and unfair".

"Poverty is experienced right across our community, in towns and cities and in rural and border communities. In 2017/18 approximately 292,000 people - 85,000 of them children - were living in poverty," she added.

"That is unacceptable. It demonstrates the scale of the challenge and the unacceptable experience of those suffering poverty."

Belfast Telegraph