Catholics still facing ‘chronic’ housing bias

Posted By: August 23, 2013

Catholics still facing ‘chronic’ housing bias, says UN

Maurice Fitzmaurice. Irish Mirror ( Dublin).Thursday, August 22, 2013

Report claims new rules planned by Nelson McCausland will make it worse

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland

Catholics are still facing “chronic” housing shortages, a damning report reveals today.

And the problem looks set to get worse if Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland changes rules for allocating homes.

The authors of Equality Can’t Wait, the United Nations-backed Participation And The Practice of Rights, have claimed “a series of ministerial, statutory and council failures have compounded religious inequality in housing across North Belfast” and “these failures have adversely impacted on the Catholic community”.

The PPR group, founded by human rights activist Inez McCormack and recognised by the UN, also claims:

• A £133 million North Belfast Housing Strategy to tackle inequality failed

• “Engineering” of a Belfast city centre ‘shared space’ is being prioritised over tackling Catholic housing need, and

• Protections which ring-fenced new social homes for areas impacted by religious inequality have been removed.

And they said changes in the way the religious background of people in housing need is measured has been changed to reduce the number of Catholics facing “housing stress”.

One method showed in 2009 73% of those in housing stress in North Belfast were Catholic while the other method said it was 57%. PPR said The former method stopped being used in 2009.

PPR policy and research support officer Kate Ward added their findings show that “Catholics in North Belfast in need of housing have been repeatedly disadvantaged”.

Warning the situation could get worse she said Mr McCausland’s “review of the social housing allocations policy” announced last year will be a “very clear departure from one of the fundamental tenets of the Housing Executive, that housing should be allocated on the basis of need”.

The report claimed the review “notes the current system provides for the allocation of social housing based purely on objective need”.

Ms Ward said the new rules will “no doubt not improve the situations for Catholics in North Belfast and could make it worse”.

The report addresses a number of key developments in North Belfast housing including the row over the reduction after Mr McCausland took over DSD in the number of homes planned for the former Girdwood barracks site.

In a statement yesterday a DSD spokesman said the Housing Executive “has invested over £358 million of public money in North Belfast with £222m spent on new build since 2001”.

He added: “In this period 2,494 additional new social homes have been provided; not only the lion’s share of new social housing in the city but across Northern Ireland.”