Housing Minister ‘failing public’ with 1,800 people on waiting list

Housing Minister ‘failing public’ with 1,800 people on waiting list

6 October 2021

NEWS that 1,801 people are on the waiting list for public sector housing across the district has prompted South Down MLA Colin McGrath to accuse Stormont’s Housing Minister of “failing the public”.

The Recorder revealed last week that almost 75 per cent of those on the waiting list for a much-needed home — 1,349 — are classed in the urgent need category, with the need particularly high in Downpatrick and Newcastle.

Homelessness also continues to be a major issue across the council area with 1,265 people not having a permanent home and Covid-19 being blamed on exacerbating this situation.

Accusing Housing Minister Deirdre Hargey of failing the public, Mr McGrath said the province is in the midst of a housing crisis, with the latest housing figures reinforcing this and waiting lists increasing in every constituency across the country.

He said the situation had worsened from December 2019, prior to the restoration of the Executive, claiming waiting list figures were shorter before the Sinn Féin communities minister took office. “People had a better chance of getting a house before we had this housing minister in place, which is a damning indictment of her performance since taking on this role,” Mr McGrath declared.

“These figures typify the lack of delivery for our people we have seen from both Sinn Féin and the DUP during their past 14 years controlling the Executive.”

Mr McGrath said the waiting lists should act as a “wake-up call” to Ms Hargey and her department. 

He continued: “The minister cannot go on burying her head in the sand. People are suffering and deserve better. My constituency office regularly hears from people who feel trapped in a cycle of homelessness they can never get free from.

“In South Down alone, there were 2,117 applicants on social housing waiting lists and 1,606 applicants experiencing housing stress as of June 30 this year.”

Mr McGrath said this compares to 1,700 applicants on social housing waiting lists on December 31, 2019.

He continued: “The 24% rise in the number of applicants waiting for a home shows us that the Minister is evidently not taking the housing crisis seriously, despite the huge need for social housing.

“Everyone should have the right to a home they can call their own. Minister Hargey’s inaction has resulted in increased overcrowding and high levels of housing stress during a pandemic when people were forced to spend more time at home than ever before.”

Mr McGrath added: “There can be no more excuses. We need strategic action to address our housing crisis and find homes for everyone who needs one.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities said Ms Hargey had begun the biggest reform of social housing in over 50 years. 

“This includes building more homes where they are needed, she continued. “When the transformational plan to make our housing system better was outlined, a key component was to improve housing, and to make sure there is a lot more of it. This includes delivering more homes that meet the needs of our society, now and in the future.”