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Minister for Social Development needs to end the social housing nightmare - McCann‏

3 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Fra McCann MLA (West Belfast) has called on the Minister for Social Development to end the social housing nightmare

Cllr McCann said:

"After 8 months in office and a lot of rhetoric the Minister has done nothing to bring an end to the ever growing homelessness problem. Nothing has been done to establish an affordable housing sector. Nothing has been done to protect those on low incomes who where encouraged by government to take out mortgages when interest rates were low only to find they are now the victims of British government monetary policy which has pushed repayments through the ceiling.

"It now appears that there is no strategy and no time frame to implement any remedial measures proposed under the Semple Review.

"Even though legislation exists under article 40 which compels developers to set aside up to 20% of developments for social and affordable housing, Minister Ritchie has not bothered to prioritise this one element of her review which by now could have ensured a steady stream of houses from its implementation.

"Several months ago Sinn Fein warned the Minister that developers were starting to pre-empt any possible introduction of this planning policy by making multiple planning applications. The minister needs to plug this possible loop hole now

"Rather than basking in self-indulgent publicity with her flowery statements Ms Ritchie should be announcing practical measures that will kick-start a programme of social housing delivery. Blaming all and sundry for her ineptitude will not solve the problem. She is the Minister. It is up to her to prioritise her spending strategy and use her imagination to come up with creative solutions.

"A good starting point would be to look at those advisors within her own department who are the same people who advised British Direct Rule Ministers and who got us in this situation in the first place. What is needed now, is a new courageous approach, new thinking and a creative strategy. Produce the goods Margaret and you will have Sinn Féin's wholehearted support but we have no intention of sitting back while all we get is rhetoric." ENDS

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