Housing Executive denies discriminating against Catholics in Lurgan

File photo dated 25/10/01 of houses in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. House prices in Northern Ireland continue to tumble, with the average value of a home dropping below �150,000 for the first time in five years. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday November 23, 2010. The latest snapshot of the region's property market recorded a 7.6% drop in prices from the same time last year. The average overall cost of a home is now �148,243, according to the University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index. The survey, compiled in conjunction with the Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, found the signs of a slight market recovery earlier this year had been put on hold, or even reversed. See PA story ULSTER Property. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
File photo dated 25/10/01 of houses in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. House prices in Northern Ireland continue to tumble, with the average value of a home dropping below �150,000 for the first time in five years. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday November 23, 2010. The latest snapshot of the region's property market recorded a 7.6% drop in prices from the same time last year. The average overall cost of a home is now �148,243, according to the University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index. The survey, compiled in conjunction with the Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, found the signs of a slight market recovery earlier this year had been put on hold, or even reversed. See PA story ULSTER Property. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The Housing Executive has said it “completely refutes” claims that it is discriminating against the Catholic/nationalist community in north Lurgan.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd and Cllr Keith Haughian accused the Housing Executive of “overseeing systematic discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist community in north Lurgan through its failure to provide new social housing in the area”.

The Sinn Féin pair were speaking after meeting the Housing Executive over “its failure to commission house building in the north Lurgan area”.

Mr O’Dowd said: “There are nearly 2,000 applicants on the Housing Executive waiting list for the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area and nearly 500 of them are in north Lurgan.

“It has become evident over recent years that the Housing Executive have no realistic plans to elevate the housing pressure faced by these 500 applicants which includes the need for single, family and older peoples accommodation .

“There is waste land and brown field sites which can and should be utilised for housing. This land should be vested if negotiations with the landowners prove fruitless.

“The Executive’s failure to respond in a proactive manner to this housing crisis can only be explained by systematic discriminatory practices which have caused chronic housing shortages in the catholic/nationalist community in North Lurgan.”

Cllr Haughian said: “While the Housing Executive do not build houses they do commission house building from Housing Associations. To date there are only tenuous plans by Housing Associations to build 30 homes which is an actual drop from the previous projection of 59.

“There are no realistic plans to build any social housing in north Lurgan for the next two years which means the housing list will increase

“The list of excuses is endless but the list of ideas on how to resolve the housing crisis is short.”

Concluding Cllr Haughian said; “The Housing Executive and Housing Association must now live up to their statutory obligations and rigorously ensure that the policies and practices within their organisations are not leading to discrimination.”

Responding to the claims a Housing Executive spokesperson said: “The Housing Executive completely refutes the allegations made about our delivery of housing in the Lurgan area. The Housing Executive has a proud history of providing housing services and delivering housing for all communities across Northern Ireland for the last five decades.

“Waiting list for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area at 31st March, 2019, shows there were 3,076 waiting list applicants who required a home, 1,719 of whom were deemed to be in housing stress. There had been 557 allocations in the preceding 12 month period. The Housing Executive have identified a requirement for 360 new homes across the Borough Council area over the period 2018-2023.

“The north Lurgan waiting list at March 2019 shows 463 housing applicants, 286 of whom were deemed to be in housing stress. There had been 41 allocations in the preceding 12 month period. A new build requirement of 80 new homes have been identified for North Lurgan over the period 2018-2023.

“The Housing Executive acknowledges the need for additional social housing. All social housing new build is delivered by registered Housing Associations through the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP). At 31st March, 2019, there were 55 homes under construction across the council area with a further 63 new homes planned during the period 2019-2022.

“We are responsible for managing the new build programme which is delivered by housing associations and which is based on housing need. We publish a Commissioning Prospectus on an annual basis, which directs housing associations to search for development opportunities in locations where there is unmet social housing need, or where there are shortages of proposals in the SHDP.

“In areas of high demand, such as north Lurgan, where we acknowledge that more housing is required, we actively work with our colleagues in housing associations to identify sites to meet housing need.

“A site investigation study has been carried out in north Lurgan which highlights those that can be investigated further for the development of social housing.

“At this stage, feasibility work has been carried out on a total of 21 sites with 13 having development potential subject to further investigation. When complete, the study will be passed on to housing associations to facilitate the development of social housing.”

A spokesperson for the NI Federation of Housing Associations said: “The Housing Executive is the agency responsible for the identification and analysis of housing need across Northern Ireland, so it would not be appropriate for us to comment on your specific query.

“More generally speaking, housing associations are always eager to provide more social homes in areas of identified need, where suitable sites are available.”