Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly accuses Minister Deirdre Hargey of ‘failing the people’ as housing applications spike by 26.4%

With a 26.4% rise in the number of applicants waiting for a home in Upper Bann, the SDLP has accused the Housing Minister of ‘failing the people’.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 11:31 am

Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly (pictured) accused the Sinn Féin Minister Deirdre Hargey of failing constituents as she revealed the latest figures on social housing waiting lists. 

Mrs Kelly said the figures show an increase in the number of applicants on social housing waiting lists and the numbers experiencing housing stress in the constituency.  

In Upper Bann there were 2,908 applicants on social housing waiting lists and 1,756 applicants experiencing housing stress as of June 30 this year. This compares to 2,300 applicants on social housing waiting lists on December 31, 2019. 

Mrs Kelly said: “The 26.43% rise in the number of applicants waiting for a home showed the Minister was not taking the housing crisis seriously despite the huge need for social housing.” 

The MLA added: “The North is in the midst of a housing crisis, it has been clear for some time and these latest figures on social housing need only reinforce it. It’s not just Upper Bann that has seen a rise in demand for social housing, waiting lists have gotten worse in every single area across the North. 

“The situation has worsened across the North from December 2019, prior to the restoration of the Executive. Our waiting lists were actually shorter before Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deidre Hargey took office. People had a better chance of getting a house before we had a housing minister in place, that’s a damning indictment of her performance since taking on this role. 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. 

“These waiting lists should act as a wake-up call to the Minister and her department. She can’t 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.

“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. There can be no more excuses, we need strategic action to address our housing crisis and find homes for everyone who needs one.”

Minister responds

A Department for Communities spokesperson said: “Minister Hargey has begun the biggest reform of social housing in over 50 years. This includes building more homes, where they are needed. 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. The Minister has also delivered, in 20/21, 2403 new social starts (the highest annual figure for over a decade) and an increased new build budget for this year. This £162m investment will help to build many more homes.

“The Minister also plans to reintroduce ring-fencing, which means money will be protected to prioritise new social housing in areas where there is highest housing need. Minister Hargey is committed to this revitalisation agenda with equality and rights the basis of her approach.”

Housing Executive responds

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: “We remain committed to delivering new social housing in the Upper Bann area. Housing associations are actively submitting proposals and we continue to work with our colleagues to identify potential sites. One of the impacts of Covid-19 has witnessed an increase in demand for social housing. We have identified a requirement for 646 new homes across the Borough over the period 2020-2025 to help meet demand.

“There has been eight social housing completions to-date this year in the Banbridge area, and we currently have 114 social housing units under construction across Upper Bann.

“We also have 122 social housing units programmed to start as part of the Social Housing Development Programme 2021/22 – 2023/24. More housing schemes may be added for Upper Bann; however, this will be subject to Housing Executive Board and Departmental/Ministerial approval.”

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