12 November 2005

Unionists say no to nationalist housing plan


A “unionist line” has been drawn through proposals to build 70 homes for nationalists in the Oldpark, say housing campaigners.
Plans for the site at Hillview, behind Dunnes Stores, were opposed at a recent meeting attended by members of the unionist community and politicians in the Avoca Street Community Centre.
But the St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Housing Committee this morning demanded answers from the Housing Executive over its housing policy in North Belfast where nationalists number 85 per cent of those in housing crisis.
Officials of the Housing Executive attended the meeting as well as unionist councillors including the PUP’s Hugh Smyth, Independent Frank McCoubrey, UUP councillor Fred Cobain and the DUP’s Diane Dodds.
Gerard Brophy of the St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s Committee said nationalists were being blocked from housing “at every turn”.
“Here are 70 families that could get a decent house and again the unionist bloc has got together to oppose any housing for nationalists.
“What they are saying about it becoming an interface is groundless, because there’s nothing but derelict houses in Manor Street.”
“They have opposed housing in Sailortown, where there is no unionist community anywhere near, and in every other place where Catholics are trying to get decent housing. In Somerdale, unionist housing is going ahead and that will create another interface. This is the unionist line being drawn again to keep North Belfast unionist. The minute there’s a row from the unionist side the Housing Executive immediately backs down. There needs to be an inquiry into who is in charge of housing policy in North Belfast. Is it the Housing Executive or unionists?”
But Hugh Smyth today denied that there was any political motive in the unionist opposition.
“I am opposed to this because it would create another interface. It’s nothing to do with politics. It’s a clear matter of creating another flashpoint. It will create nothing but difficulties for both sides of the community.”
A Housing Executive spokeswoman said it was in favour of the development.
“The site at Hillview has been acquired by North and West Housing.
“The Housing Executive, through the North Belfast Housing Strategy, has supported their proposals for social housing at this location on the grounds of housing need in North Belfast,” she said.
“The North Belfast Strategy Manager and senior Housing Executive officials regularly meet with community groups and elected representatives about proposed developments in North Belfast. Initial contact has been made with local politicians about the site at Hillview and the Housing Executive and North and West Housing are awaiting a response from Sinn Féin about possible dates for public consultation.”
Sinn Féin’s Margaret McClenaghan said, “Sinn Féin is asking unionist politicians to stop scaremongering around the issue of the proposed new Hillview Housing Development.”

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

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