The Department for Communities (DfC) missed its target for building new social homes in rural areas by more than 50% in the last year, prompting fears countryside communities are being neglected.
Recently, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced that building on 2,403 new social homes had started in the 2020/21 financial year.
Despite that, the delivery on new social homes in rural areas across Northern Ireland has fallen far short of DfC's targets.
The department has a target of 215 rural new builds in 2020/21, but only started 98 - less than half of the goal.
Ulster Unionist communities spokesperson Andy Allen said that with so many people on the waiting list, DfC needs to ensure the supply is distributed equally.
“We are all only too aware of the increasing pressure being placed on a straining social housing system, the housing waiting list has over 42,000 households and growing — this is equal to every household in east Belfast needing to be rehoused, something that should create concern in each of us," he said.
“The failure by the department to meet their commitment to rural areas for new social homes is worrying. Rural communities are struggling on a number of fronts and forcing individuals and families to move elsewhere or live in unsuitable housing conditions increases the pressure these communities face.
“I have written to the minister seeking explanation as to why, in a year where the minister is celebrating 2,403 new social homes, rural communities seem to have been neglected.”
DfC said: “Minister Hargey recently announced that 2,403 new social homes were started in 2020/21 — almost 30% more than the target for the year, or 553 homes over and above the target.
"This is a significant achievement in a very challenging year. The homes were delivered in areas of housing need as defined by the Housing Executive, and will help address the needs of many on the social housing waiting list, including those in rural areas. The minister has also delivered an increased new build budget for this year. This £162m investment will help to build many more homes.
“The department has been assured that the Housing Executive is making efforts to address rural social housing need.”