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Ritchie should use department lands to kick-start social housing strategy

3 June, 2007

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has called on the Housing Minister, Margaret Ritchie not to wait on a response from the Executive to see if there is additional money for a social and affordable house-building programme. Mr McCann highlighted the fact that there is plenty of land under the control of the Department of Social Development to allow the minister to kick-start a reversal of years of neglect of housing by previous direct rule administrations.

Mr McCann said:

"If we look at the south, or England government and local government land banks have been used to negotiate with developers to build houses on land for houses swap. This allows for mixed tenure estates to be built. The DSD owns sizable amounts of land in Belfast city centre that they could release to ensure that social and affordable homes are built. Indeed many groups in inner city Belfast have been calling for this for many years.

"Margaret Ritchie has it within her power as minister to initiate this immediately. Right across the north there is land not being used that is within the control of her department.

"If we don't act now we are condemning people to further housing misery. The homeless figures have been rising year on year and urgent action is required.

"This one initiative would go a long way in starting that process. Margaret Ritchie, has declared that the housing crisis her priority, let it be actions and not words that is her guiding principle in reversing the neglect." ENDS

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