‘Startling’ figures show ‘lack of social housing for disabled’ says SDLP

‘Startling’ figures show a ‘concerning’ lack of social housing for the disabled in Upper Bann, says the SDLP.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:16 pm

Figures shared with MLA Dolores Kelly reveal that only 10 social housing bungalows have been built in the Upper Bann constituency within the past five years.

Mrs Kelly said her office was inundated by constituents needing support with mobility issues with many in unsuitable and overcrowded accommodation.

She said social housing applicants with disabilities are being short-changed by government.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3 March 2017 - NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Banbridge Leisure Centre for Newry & Armagh and Upper Bann constituencies. Dolores Kelly(SDLP) makes her acceptance speech. Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.

Figures obtained from Assembly Questions submitted to the Communities Minister show that only 164 bungalows were built in the last five years across NI despite 8,072 applicants currently awaiting ground floor accommodation.

The SDLP MLA said: “Figures gleaned from Department of Communities on the demand for accessible housing versus the number of bungalows being built throughout the North, are beyond concerning.

“Day to day, my office is contacted by constituents seeking housing support. Many of those cases involve applicants with mobility issues waiting years for suitable accommodation. These people are desperate to regain some semblance of independence yet their housing situation has not been conducive to their needs.

“Bungalow build in Upper Bann totals to 10 within the past five years and only one has been built within the past two years. How then can we give assurances to disabled applicants that they will be provided for?

“I appreciate that the requirement for ground floor accommodation can be met through alternative types of housing such as flats and not solely bungalows, the figures are startling nonetheless. Otherwise, at the current rate of bungalow construction we would be waiting approximately 244 years just to clear the existing waiting list for ground-floor social housing. We cannot place further barriers on people with disabilities, especially when it comes to securing suitable housing.

She continued: “The need for increased social housing here is prevalent and I fear will become even more so as we enter a post-pandemic landscape.

“Individuals, families and in this case many people with disabilities continue to struggle in overcrowded conditions and properties wholly unsuitable to their needs, a battle which has been fully realised over the past 12 months.

“The creation of improved and indeed accessible social housing must remain a key objective going forward. The Department for Communities have just launched a public consultation on the Housing Supply Strategy and I would encourage anyone struggling on housing waiting lists to share their experiences and help inform this piece of work going forward.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said; “We remain committed to delivering housing solutions for people with disabilities across NI.

“We deliver this through the re-letting of existing accessible housing stock and new-build housing provided by the Social Housing Development Programme.

“We are also working closely with housing association partners to deliver new wheelchair-accessible homes.

“There has been 260 new social housing completions in Upper Bann in the last decade.

“Of these 260 units, 21 are wheelchair-accessible properties, of which six are flats, 14 are bungalows and one is a house.

“There are currently 85 new social housing units under construction in Upper Bann and 11 are wheelchair-accessible properties.

“The units under construction also include a dedicated five-unit wheelchair-accessible bungalow housing scheme on our former land at Drumellan, Craigavon.

“A further 188 social housing units are programmed for Upper Bann in the next three years, and we will work closely with housing associations to ensure adequate levels of wheelchair-accessible homes are included in these proposals.”

A DfC 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 that meet the needs of our society, now and in the future.

“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 Housing Executive is responsible for objectively assessing housing need and developing the Social Housing Development Programme to address need.”

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