Housing crisis reaches 30 year high

Over 40,000 people in Northern Ireland are now on the housing waiting list, making it the highest in 30 years. A further 20,000 people are officially described as being in “housing stress” where the cost of housing is high compared to housing income. There are also over 8,000 homeless cases in the North, most of them are single households, but a third are family households with children and 11% are elderly.

The vicious cuts being introduced by the Assembly will result in £30 million being cut from the Department of Social Development. This will only make the housing crisis worse with less money available for repairs, never mind new builds. At the same time, there are over 50,000 empty houses across Northern Ireland. These are mostly owned by speculators and property developers waiting for a more favourable time to sell them off and make a profit.

The fact that these parasites are allowed to leave property empty while families and the elderly struggle to find homes shows where the real priorities of the Assembly Executive are. They care more for the interests of their property developer friends than the concern of working people.

If the Executive parties were serious about dealing with the waiting list, it would step in and take into public ownership those houses that are not being used so we could provide the 40,000 on the waiting lists with homes. Compensation should only be paid out to those who can prove they genuinely need it, not to those who have made millions at the expense of working class people and have caused the economic mess we are in. The Executive should also begin a programme of public works that could provide the 13,000 unemployed construction workers with socially useful work, not only in building houses but in more schools and local facilities.

Clearly though, as the recent scandal with Peter and Iris Robinson shows, the politicians in the main parties are tied to the interest of property developers and cannot be relied upon. Local communities must organise and demand housing for all as a right.

A glimpse of what is possible was seen last year when Mersey Street residents in East Belfast took direct action and forced the Housing Executive to provide newly-built housing to local residents.

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