06 May 2005

Irelandclick.com

1079 and growing - That’s the number of applicants on the housing waiting list, up 22 per cent since the start of the Executive’s £52m strategy

An urgent public inquiry has been called for into the Housing Executive’s record on housing in the north of the city as we reveal that numbers of people on the housing waiting list rose yet again in North Belfast.
Since the launch of the Executive’s seven-year strategy in 2000, the waiting list has steadily grown from 880 applicants in March 2000 to 1,079 in December last year.
The £52 million strategy since it’s launch shows no improvements in the housing misery, but rather a worsening situation.
This morning the Housing Executive said the figures for the first four months of 2005 were not yet available.
But as of last December 883 applications for urgent housing were from nationalists classed as homeless or “in housing distress” and 196 from the unionist community.
That has risen from 793 from last August and means over 90 applications have been received by the HE in the last four months of 2004.
Of that number 368 are single people and 98 applications state “elderly”. However, the figures do not suggest how many people would be living in a house in the elderly category. But most striking is that over 400 applications for urgent housing are from families.
This morning we asked the Housing Executive for a head count of the entire number of people waiting on urgent housing including the number of people in each family behind each application.
However, the Housing Executive said it needed more time to find a total.
“As of December 2004 there were 1,079 households in housing stress in North Belfast of which 883 are perceived to be Catholic. It has to be noted that of the 883 households 368 are single people and 98 are elderly,” said a spokeswoman.
Gerard Brophy of St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee said an independent inquiry was needed into “these appalling figures”.
Despite rising figures the Housing Executive says its strategy is working.
“These figures speak for themselves and we need an inquiry into how this obviously sectarian strategy came about,” said Gerard Brophy.

Housing campaign gets support from groups

North Belfast’s housing campaigners have been supported by community and housing groups from South and West Belfast in their demand for “houses, not hostels”.
Tommy Holland of West Belfast’s Upper Springfield Federation of Residents Associations said at the Garmoyle Street protest yesterday that he was dismayed at the wet hostel that includes an outside “wet garden”.
“We were very impressed when St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s came to Upper Springfield and gave our residents a presentation of their urban village development that would create 1,100 homes, open space and play areas,” he said.
The people of the old Sailortown moved to many areas of North and West Belfast in new developments that were springing up in the 1960s. But former residents say they were duped into moving with promises of new homes would be built in the ancient quarter of the dock.
Residents were moved out to allow the construction then of the M2 motorway.
“So it was with dismay that we were made aware that a wet hostel would be built within an area of North Belfast that has over 4,500 (people) on the waiting list, over 40 hostels and hundreds of hostel be spaces,” said Tommy Holland.
He expressed how he was shocked at a courtroom revelation by solicitors acting for the Housing Executive that it had no legal duty to seek out consultation with the community.
“We feel that there has been great inroads with community groups with regards to consultation in the west of the city. But we feel that residents groups and those involved in housing community networks cannot stand back and ask the same questions about housing need in North Belfast.”

Kelly blasts Housing Executive “arrogance”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has accused the Housing Executive of “arrogance” in its continued stance on putting a wet hostel into a proposed urban village in the docks.
More than half way into the controversial seven-year North Belfast strategy, Gerry Kelly said the housing homeless figures had gone up instead of down.
But the Housing Executive insists the strategy is working.
“We have the worst homeless situation that the strategy has ever produced. At the same time the Housing Executive is making decisions against the wishes of local residents. That has all happened before the strategy has been completed,” said Gerry Kelly.
He paid tribute to the work of the St Patrick’s Housing committee saying they had highlighted the Housing Executive’s arrogance towards the issue.
“People come from all over Europe to see the Carrickhill. They are now chasing an urban village and those plans are well advanced. The Housing Executive instead of supporting this process is trying to shift the wet hostel currently in Brunswick Street. That is hindering any attempts to bring in any development and shows the arrogant thinking of the Housing Executive.”

Rain fails to dampen the fighting spirit

TEXT Your support FOR the St Patrick’s/St
Joseph’s housing campaign by texting the
word NBN to 0788799558 with your comment

The rain lashing onto of a few cardboard shelters did nothing to dampen the spirits of North Belfast’s most ardent campaigners this week.
The members of St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing committee slept out all night to protest at the lack of housing provision in North Belfast and to demand the scrapping of a “wet hostel”.
Kids from the Tar Isteach youth group helped make some of the structures and constructed a window and even a window box with paper flowers.
Sleeping bags, torches, flasks of tea and coffee and buns were in abundance as was plenty of banter.
But the more serious issue of housing and how the campaigners say the hostel will block their plans for an urban village in Sailortown was never forgotten in the driving rain.
That vision of social and private homes with services would alleviate the huge numbers of nationalists on the housing waiting list in North Belfast.
Car horns beeped as the small group camped up against the gable wall of Stella Maris. It sits beside a huge motorway interchange as well as a number of bars.
Concerns have been raised as to how drinkers would negotiate traffic at the crossroads that forms part of an arterial route for Belfast’s main ferry port.
The campaigners got ready for their overnight stint in Sailortown as workmen continued renovations on the proposed hostel that was the result of a landmark court case forcing the Housing Executive to reveal it did not have a legal obligation to consult with people about any proposed development..


Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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