Judith Cochrane MLA said: “It will come as no surprise to anyone that in the draft Housing Strategy the Alliance Party hopes to see clear, strong, tangible commitments to the development, provision and protection of open, mixed and integrated housing, which is freely available to all. We firmly believe that the development of mixed or integrated housing is a key factor in the building of a shared future for Northern Ireland.
“I look forward to the detail of key commitments in the Strategy covering areas such as homelessness. I know there is a separate Homelessness Strategy but homelessness and housing go hand in hand. It is obvious that the Housing strategy must set out methods through which it will attempt to tackle the size of the current waiting list for social housing. I believe that the creation of mixed housing can be a key element to tackling this challenge. Supporting people at risk of losing their homes needs also to be included in the strategy.
“The strategy should also include actions to stimulate our construction sector. It is a major element of the Northern Ireland economy which has suffered most from the recent recession and will play a key role in achieving solutions to the housing problems we face. We have a skilled workforce in Northern Ireland and we should use our construction sector to the best of its ability.
“Northern Ireland needs a strong strategy to deliver affordable and appropriate housing and this has never been more necessary that right now with the Welfare Reform changes on their way.
“We also need to work towards better minimum standards and retrofitting of houses to increase their energy efficiency .
“Obviously we are disappointed to see the Green New Deal is not being taken forward at this point but there are a number of steps that can be taken to move us in the right direction.
“I was at an event at Titanic Belfast where one of the speakers talked about ‘A Solution to Fuel Poverty’. He spoke of homes that will be so energy efficient that they can be built without central heating systems and essentially these homes would be “future proofed” against adverse energy costs and address the impact of fuel poverty.
“Obviously workmanship is key but properties can be built so that they are air-tight, fitted with triple-glazed windows and contain a whole house ventilation system which will recover at least 80% of the heat from stale air in the home and redistribute it into a supply of fresh filtered air. There is an example of this currently in my own constituency of East Belfast and I believe that fuel poverty is something that we must strive to address as part of the housing strategy.”