Wake up Stormont! The Peace Walls programme needs the back up of a major programme of borrow- to-invest in housing

Turning away from Brexit to the home front, congrats to the Guardian for  promoting a  theme developed there  by Professor Paddy Gray, an academic on the Built Environment, an austere title for a school of research  which  hosts  a great deal of imaginative and  practical  work on developing society.

Gray argues that the slow and careful task of bring down peace walls requires a change in favour of greater incentives for voluntary mixed development.  In some places, this is a next step. It is unlikely to apply anytime soon to  the latest example of progress, the lowering of the peace wall on the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne in August, 100 metres across the street from the now removed Camp Twaddell. But a few years from now you never know. Not so long ago at the height of the Troubles, the Ardoyne shops had mixed ownership and patronage.

But the programme will be frustrated unless it’s accompanied by a major programme of home building, allowing the Housing Executive or its successors to borrow against their considerable assets.   This is hardly an unfamiliar agenda. But it’s a vital one that so far has taken a back seat to our obsessions with the latest political squabbles.   What is the Stormont Executive doing about it?    The Housing Executive’s abolition was announced three years ago but it still survives. What is its future and that of the programmes it administers?

 

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), which owned the peace wall demolished in August, as well as 20 other peace walls, was instrumental in brokering the deal with local communities.

In 2013, the Northern Ireland assembly pledged that it would remove all peace walls within 10 years. This is ambitious, but the first example of a wall being demolished will hopefully lead to more of these physical barriers being removed, with housing organisations continuing to play a big role.

But ( the Housing Executive)  stopped building new social housing in 2002, with housing associations taking on this task, and it faces major problems. According to Savills, existing NIHE stock needs investment of £7bn over the next 30 years and nearly half its stock needs immediate attention. But there is still reluctance to change to status of the NIHE to enable it to borrow against its considerable assets.

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  • chrisjones2

    Spend spend spend

    Still the DUP will undoubtedly be able to rely on some crony developers for sound advice on the best way to do it

  • murdockp

    this is where joined up government is needed.

    take private landlord rents. the amount paid to private landlords in NI is hundreds of millions. these rents simply need to be directed to housing associations and we are talking billions for new housing with the rents amortised and not a penny of new money needed.

    such a move will also boost the private rented stock.

  • Old Mortality

    I entirely accept that the private rented sector in NI is too dependent on housing benefit but there should be fresh thinking about whether social housing is mainly for the benefit of people who are unwilling to move in order to improve their employment prospects. All other things being equal people in employment should always receive preference over those who are not in order to prevent social housing being completely synonymous with dependency culture.

  • chrisjones2

    Great. So what do you do? Forcibly expropriate the housing stock? Shoot the rentiers?

    And I you just don’t seize them who will pay for it and what if they refuse to sell?

  • chrisjones2

    Part of the problems with the current system is that it favours the feckless. Families with social problems get priority in housing as well as schools. The desire to protect the children is admirable but there is huge resentment in the majority of caring hard working parents who see themselves (and their children) as discriminated against