MP Carla Lockhart calls for ‘decisive action’ as more than 1700 wait in housing stress in Upper Bann

With more than 1700 people in Upper Bann registered as in housing stress, the local MP has called for more ‘decisive action’ on social housing.

The NIHE revealed at the end of September 2021, 2,819 applicants were on the NIHE waiting list in Upper Bann, 1,741 in housing stress.

However the spokesperson added: “We have identified a need for 611 new social homes for the Upper Bann Parliamentary Constituency over the five year period 2021-2026.”

MP Carla Lockhart (picutured) called for the Communities Minister to take decisive action to increase investment in social housing in Upper Bann.

Carla Lockhart MP.

The DUP MP said: “On a weekly basis my office deals with many people who are in housing need. It is simply heart-breaking to deal with people who have no home, or a home that is not fit for purpose, but have no prospect of securing a new home because of the unacceptable waiting lists for housing.

“This is not a new problem. These issues have been ongoing for many years, exacerbated by the years when the Executive was down because of Sinn Fein’s boycott. Now, with the Executive restored, the Minister Deidre Hargey MLA needs to act. She has been in position for some time and there has been little to no progress. That is not good enough and is failing people in housing need.

“An abundance of public land is sitting in the gift of the NI Executive and we need to look at how this land can be released to see public housing built. That process needs simplified to speed it up.”

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: “The key action to reduce the numbers of housing applicants, including those in housing stress, and to increase the number of allocations, is to deliver new social housing in Upper Bann.

“We work closely with the Department for Communities, housing associations and the Council. One of the key aspects is seeking surplus land identified as available by a variety of public sector bodies

“We have identified a need for 611 new social homes for Upper Bann in 2021-2026.

“A number of Social Housing Development Plan (SHDP) proposals have been received for Upper Bann, in addition to the 35 social housing completions to date in 2021/22 and the 87 social housing units under construction. There are 94 units programmed to start in 2021/22 – 2023/24.”

A Department for Communities spokesperson said: “Minister Hargey began the biggest reform of social housing in 50 years. This includes building more homes, where they are needed. The Minister has 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. Minister Hargey is committed to this revitalisation agenda with equality and rights the basis of her approach.

“The Minister also announced plans to deliver 100k plus homes as she launched a draft Housing Supply Strategy. She outlined how she wants at least a third of these to be social homes, of high quality and to meet a range of needs, including the needs of our ageing population, those with disabilities and our children and young people.”