List for social housing tops 1,460 mark

List for social housing tops 1,460 mark

9 September 2020

THE true scale of the district’s social housing crisis has been revealed.

New figures published by the Housing Executive confirm that there are currently 1,464 people on the waiting list for public sector housing across the district with demand continuing to outstrip supply.

Almost 1,120 of those seeking social homes are classed in the urgent need category, with demand particularly high in two hot spot areas — Downpatrick and Newcastle.

Up until the end of March, just 212 people had been allocated homes over the previous 12 months.

Housing chiefs have confirmed that 52 new homes were built last year and that almost 300 currently ongoing on sites 

at various locations across the district, including the former Downe Hospital in Downpatrick.

Local politicians met virtually with senior housing officials last week to discuss their annual report when it was confirmed that during the last financial year, 1,214 people presented themselves as homeless.

Politicians say they are acutely aware of the pressure on housing officials to meet increasing need and say that the issue of social housing is raised with them often. 

At their monthly council meeting on Monday night, members agreed to hold another housing conference early next year to look again at the social housing crisis and work with the Housing Executive and other agencies to come up with potential solutions.

Across the entire Newry, Mourne and Down Council area, there are 3,309 people on the waiting list for homes, with 2,641 in urgent need of a home.

Housing officials admit that while they face many challenges in the current financial climate they will continue to do their best to deliver services, confirming that a five-year assessment shows a need for 1,864 new homes across the district by 2024.

Locally, the current waiting list figures reveal that 385 people are seeking social homes in Downpatrick, with 288 in the so-called urgent need category. 

In Newcastle, where a number of potential development sites have been identified, 348 people are on the waiting list, with 278 in urgent need, while 142 people are on the waiting list for social housing accommodation in Ballynahinch, with 110 in the urgent need category.

In the Castlewellan and Drumaroad area, 150 people are seeking homes, with 118 in urgent need, while the newly published figures reveal there are 91 people on the waiting list for homes in the Crossgar and Annacloy area, with 74 in urgent need.

Seventy two people are on the list for social accommodation in Killyleagh, with more than half of the applicants, 44, in the urgent need bracket.

In Saintfield, 68 people are on the waiting list for homes with 54 in urgent need, while in the Ardglass, Ballyhornan and Dunsford areas, 56 people ares seeking public housing with 43 classed in the urgent need category.

In the Clough, Dundrum and Seaforde areas the waiting list total is 51, with 37 in urgent need, while 28 people are seeking social housing in Strangford and Kilclief, with 23 in urgent need.

Almost 30 people are on the waiting list for homes in Drumaness with 66 per cent in urgent need for a home, with 19 on the list for homes in Killough.

Less than 10 applicants are on the waiting list for homes in the Annsborough, Ballykinlar, Shrigley, Spa, Burrenbridge, Kilcoo and Kilmore areas.

Conceding that a lot of work needs to be done to meet housing need, the Housing Executive insists that it will continue to do that.

Housing Executive corporate services director David Moore told politicians last week that 2020 has been an “unprecedented year” for everyone with the organisation following government advice on the management of the coronavirus outbreak.

He explained there were changes in the way the organisation delivered services which were intended to protect staff and customers, while ensuring that key essential services continued to be delivered. 

Mr Moore said the Executive’s housing investment plan had been developed as a “comprehensive conversation piece” for the whole Northern Ireland housing sector and is informed by a range of stakeholders.

“As the strategic housing authority for Northern Ireland, we have prepared this plan to inform the community planning partnership on the state of the housing market, housing needs, policy priorities and public sector investment,” he continued.

“While we are still unsure what our programmes will look like over the coming year, we continue to make plans for when we can commence all work.”

Mr Moore said a lot of work remained to be done to meet housing need, improve housing stock and provide support for the most vulnerable in the community. 

“We will continue to play our part to ensure this work is delivered efficiently and effectively,” he continued, insisting that maintaining housing stock remains a priority for the organisation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic posed many challenges, including office closures, delayed new build and the suspension of all but emergency maintenance.

He added: “During 2019/20, the Housing Executive delivered significant housing investment for a wide range of services, with the public sector housing investment totalled £24.87m in the Newry, Mourne and Down area. This includes grant aid to Housing Associations for the building and rental of new houses.”