‘Creative solutions’ appeal over social housing issues

‘Creative solutions’ appeal over social housing issues

8 May 2024

AN appeal has been made to a Stormont minister to seek “creative solutions” to develop affordable and social homes in Downpatrick and across South Down.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons has been asked to work with housing associations to deliver more homes by South Down MLA Cathy Mason.

She met recently with Clanmil Housing officials to discuss new developments designed to deliver more social and affordable homes in Downpatrick and wider constituency.

Mrs Mason said housing is a human right and everyone must work to deliver safe, decent, social and affordable housing as a priority.

“Working together with organisations like Clanmil and other housing groups is key to building more affordable and social housing,” she said.

“I have written to the Communities Minister to work with Clanmil Housing in order to find creative solutions to the acute housing need across South Down.” 

Local politicians are keen to see the area’s growing demand for new social homes met and are keen for Mr Lyons to also work with Newry, Mourne and Down Council in addressing the growing need throughout the county. 

Last year, almost £38m was invested in new social housing schemes across the council area with work on just over 630 new homes by various housing associations underway.

And while investment in new homes continues, a huge number of people across the council area remain on the waiting list for a new home, with the gap between housing demand and supply continuing to widen.

At the end of March last year, 3,133 people were on the waiting list, with almost 75% of them classed in the urgent need category, with 348 homes allocated to applicants. 

The Housing Executive said it recognises the importance of continued partnership with councils and the housing sector to find solutions, with the organisation remaining fully committed to the objectives set out in its Housing Investment Plan.

Mr Lyons recently set out his priorities for housing, including building more social homes and providing more affordable housing options.

Delivering the keynote address at the Northern Ireland Housing Conference, he said rents and mortgage rates are rising and there is massive demand for private rentals and social housing, yet over the last few years housebuilding has declined. 

“If we want to avoid sliding into a housing crisis, we must deliver the housing we need.

The Minister outlined his intention to make progress in a number of areas.

“We need to build more social homes to address growing housing stress,” he said. 

“We need to deliver more affordable housing options. We need to support people to live independently in their own homes and feel part of their community. We need to provide better quality homes so people can live comfortably and safely.”

Mr Lyons admitted that this work needs to be done at a time when budgets are under pressure across the public sector. 

But he insisted: “We have to do it, as otherwise thousands more households and families will struggle to buy a home or pay their rent.”

The Minister added: “These issues won’t be fixed quickly, or indeed easily. But now, more than ever, we need to work collectively – at all levels of government, with stakeholders, delivery partners and communities – to address the situation we face.”

“Everyone has a right to a decent standard of housing. And yet, a home is much more than bricks and mortar. It begins with a roof over someone’s head. But it extends far beyond that, into a collaborative effort which supports individuals and families.”