Housing and Homelessness Hustings #homes4all

homes4all 3x3 headsThis afternoon’s Housing and Homelessness Hustings brought together eight party representatives in Girdwood Community Hub in North Belfast in an event organised by the Council for the Homelessness NI (CHNI), Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Housing Rights and the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) who have each published manifestos (see links).

  • Nelson McCausland (DUP)
  • Fra McCann (Sinn Féin)
  • Lesley Carroll (UUP)
  • Nichola Mallon (SDLP)
  • Stewart Dickson (Alliance)
  • Malachi O’Hara (Green Party)
  • Fiona Ferguson (People Before Profit)
  • Billy Hutchinson (PUP)

After the introductions, each candidate made a two minute statement.

The 90 minute question time was split into four topics that ranged from how to tackle Northern Ireland’s underprovision of new homes, homelessness, the private rental sector and finally the future of the NI Housing Executive.

40,000 households in Northern Ireland are on the social housing waiting list, with 22,000 in housing stress and one in eighteen of all adults saying that they have experienced some degree of homelessness.

There was notable agreement on most issues across the majority the panel – particularly the need for NIHE to have access to capital funding – and the greatest disputes were between the audience and panel … and the challenge from People Before Profit’s well researched Fiona Ferguson.

You can follow the chatter on Twitter from the event by searching for #homes4all.

On the subject of Programme for Government targets, Nichola Mallon explained the need for an outcomes-based approach (and desired interim targets as well as the end-of-five-year overall goal). She thought the Green Party’s idea of a rental cap mad merit, but the longer term consequences need to be looked at.

Fra McCann highlighted the need for a wraparound package to meet multiple needs, not just homes but also mental health services.

Fiona Ferguson suggested that if housing was a priority, money – for example, the cash available for civil service redundancies – should he be diverted to NIHE for house building. She also called for politicians not to make housing a sectarian issue.

Billy Hutchinson responded to a specific query his stance against housing on the old Dunnes Stores site by saying the site was designated for retail, talking about the need to follow planning rules, questioning who would police housing on the site [Ed – the PSNI?] and saying people putting up posters were stirring up trouble. [Ed – people taking down posters also stir up trouble …]

Stewart Dickson agreed with NIHE need access adequate finance and be allowed to both build houses as well as provide professional strategic direction alongside the housing associations.

Lesley Carroll reminded the audience that “homelessness is not ‘a’ problem, it’s many problems woven together”. She called for the community & voluntary sector to be a delivery partner and not just consulted over strategies. She suggested that NIHE should be able to borrow against their existing assets to fund new homebuilding.

Malachi O’Hara espoused the benefit of a Green New Deal over housing and stressed the need for mixed housing stock and local consultation. Housing policy will feature in the Green Party manifesto (to be launched next week).

Nelson McCausland reminded the audience of DUP manifesto commitment to build a further 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020. He saw a better cooperation within departments and the need for contribution by multiple departments.

, ,

  • Croiteir

    Girdwood.

  • Thomas Barber

    Is this some sort of joke, Nelson McCausland and the DUP promising to build 8000 new homes, obviously they must forget about the meetings in Clifton Street Orange hall where they and the Orange order objected to new housing being built for Catholic residents in the nearby Unity flats area. Fra McCann is another joke just try getting him to help out with your housing problems especially if your one of those Irish citizens who refuse to vote in British elections. Billy Hutchinson is another just like McCausland, build lots of houses as long as its not for themuns and as long as they are not anywhere near us or interfere with his parading. Fiona Ferguson deserves credit for hitting the nail on the head about politicians not making housing a sectarian issue rather than a need based issue but she should have pointed the finger at the sole party responsible – The DUP.

  • Croiteir

    They are not the sole party responsible. SF let’s them away with it. And they are happy to do so. Plenty of pie to slice.

  • barnshee

    where will the money come from ?

  • Thomas Barber

    They certainly seem to Croieir, Girdwood was no doubt one part of an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein the conflict resolution centre at the Maze being another but we now know how perfidious unionists can be when it comes to honouring their agreements.

  • Thomas Barber

    They’ll probably Oliver Twist it over in Westminster at the masters table.

  • murdockp

    Ah the do nothings.

    Every town and Village has boarded up houses, hundreds of them that do not need planning and could be habitable very quickly if refurbished.

    In stead of using vesting and legistive powers to get them habitable or providing soft loans to get them refurbished the do nothings do as we would expect and do nothing.

    Meanwhile in Liverpool they sold the same houses for a quid if you commit to refurbishment and loaned the people the money.

    This is electioneering bullshit

  • murdockp

    Leaver age the rents like all housing associations do. They can borrow 20 times the rent. 5k rent = £100k.

    The PRS sector in UK is just getting going and will deliver thousands of houses.

    Technically they can borrow to infinity it there is demand and cull the private landlords one by one if they have the will.

    Problem in NI is most don’t pay rent who are in this position where they have nowhere to live.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Very Good Panel would have liked to seen a representative from both the Labour Party and Workers Party on the platform also but look forward to the release of the Green Party Manifesto on Mixed Housing and Local Consultation. Very much interested on the Local Consultation issue as I have been involved currently with existing Belfast Inner City Communities who feel that they have been seriously let down ! Pulled this wee photo out from 1974 would seem is still revelant today ?