Social and Affordable Homes

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of Ciara Ferguson Ciara Ferguson Sinn Féin 10:45, 16 April 2024

I raise a critical issue that significantly impacts on families in Derry, west Tyrone and other areas: access to social and affordable homes. Just last week, the Chartered Surveyors' report indicated a continued rise in house buyer enquiries and in house prices across the North, yet, as we see from the statistics, at least 46,500 households are on the social housing waiting list, 34,500 of which are deemed to be living in dire need and over 26,000 of which are statutorily homeless. Behind the statistics are tens of thousands of people who are unable to access housing. They live each day with the uncertainty and anxiety of homelessness.

In November 2020, on behalf of Sinn Féin, Carál Ní Chuilín outlined a vision and a plan for housing, with an emphasis on the urgent need for the revitalisation of the Housing Executive to enable our largest social housing landlord to start building again at scale. We consulted on the housing supply strategy, which advocated the building of well over 100,000 homes over the next 15 years, including 33,000 social homes in urban and rural communities across the North. Additionally, the Assembly delivered the Private Tenancies Act 2022, which was the first package of reform for the private rented sector to enhance the safety and security of renters.

We must now continue to work to enhance standards, deliver affordable rents and enhance security of housing, including consideration of tenancies of indefinite duration. We want to see real delivery for people on those issues and a focus on supporting our struggling homeowners and renters alike, alongside the prioritisation of ending long-term homelessness in our society. That should include the delivery of multi-annual budgeting and the expansion of homelessness services, including Housing First and projects such as Complex Lives in the north-west. Housebuilding projects must target areas such as Derry, where housing need is greatest, so that people who have been failed by the provision of housing for decades have the opportunity to live in their community.

I ask the Minister for Communities to publish the housing supply strategy urgently. I also ask for cross-departmental collaboration, with the support of our four-party coalition and the Opposition, on the prioritisation of housing. The British Government need to get serious about the investment in our public services that they must provide. That requires a new level of serious engagement on the assurances around securing the additional funding that is required for the Housing Executive not just to maintain its current stock but, crucially, to remove the historical debt and begin bringing new social and affordable homes to meet the level of need across all our communities.