Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Waiting list figures illustrate housing crisis in south Down

25 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Assembly Member Cllr Willie Clarke has described as 'unacceptable and scandalous' the number of people currently waiting to be re-housed throughout south Down.

Cllr Clarke said:

"In a written question to Margaret Ritchie MLA, the Social Development Minister, seeking information on the number of people currently looking to be re-housed locally I was shocked to learn that currently there are 2,449 applicants on the waiting list in the South Down area. Of these 1,463 had more than 30 points and are therefore deemed to be in housing stress.

"By contrast, during 2006/07, only 30 homes in the Bridal Loanan, Warrenpoint, and one at Dunwellan Park, Newcastle were completed and a scheme at Bryansford Road for 12 supported units of accommodation commenced on site. A scheme at Windmill Drive, Ballynahinch is due to be completed this year delivering 12 general needs units. This represents a drop in the ocean and what these figures clearly illustrate is the extent of the crisis and the problems people have in finding suitable accommodation.

"To make matters worse, first time buyers are being forced out of a housing market that is dominated by property developers, speculators, private landlords and the buy-to-let market.

"These unacceptable and scandalous figures are an indictment on how the Department of Social Development has attempted to address this vitally important issue. Margaret Ritchie, as Minister responsible for housing, must start to bring forward initiatives to tackle the housing crisis not only here in south Down but right across the north.

"There is no point identifying the growing demand for housing in places like Warrenpoint, Kilkeel, Rostrevor, Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, Newcastle, Castlewellan and Crossgar and doing nothing to ensure people have somewhere to live.

"There is also a huge affordability crisis when almost 90% of houses on the market cost well in excess of £150,000. Yet all we hear from the Minister is excuses. There is no doubt more money is needed for social housing but the fact is there are immediate initiatives that Ms Ritchie could and should be bringing forward. Earlier this year, Sinn Fein highlighted the huge number of empty properties that, if brought back on stream, could make a real difference at very little cost. Yet still we await a comprehensive response from Ms Ritchie.

"DSD could also use the considerable land banks they have available to negotiate with developers to deliver significant new build programmes to increase the numbers of social and affordable houses.

"Margaret needs to start showing some leadership and a little initiative in dealing with the current housing crisis. There is no point standing idly by and blaming others." ENDS

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