Housing must be a priority, says Armstrong

Alliance Communities Spokesperson Kellie Armstrong has urged the Minister to Northern Ireland’s growing housing problem a priority.

The MLA for Strangford was speaking as the Housing Bill was introduced to the Assembly, aiming to take forward a change to the way housing associations are designated.

She said: “Everyone has the right to safe and appropriate housing. Today’s legislation is another step towards continuing to fund Housing Associations to build social housing and enable Co-ownership to continue to operate. Today abolishes the statutory ‘right to buy scheme’ by Housing Associations. We created a housing crisis by allowing social housing to be sold without ensuring the home was replaced. This meant a 42.5% increase in the number of people in housing stress on waiting lists between 2009-2019.

“We must create a better system. A system that doesn’t simply rely on individual social housing associations choosing to take forward a voluntary Right to Buy scheme, which is why Alliance has highlighted the need to align the Housing Association’s future voluntary purchase scheme with the Housing Executive’s continued Right to Buy programme. I have encouraged the Minister to complete the review of the Housing Executive as soon as possible. I have also asked that any future volunteer purchase scheme includes a requirement for inclusive, cohesive housing within mixed tenure developments”

“It should also not be forgotten that housing was a focus in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement, which included a new Housing Outcome to be added to the Programme for Government, which I hope the Minister will now develop as a matter of urgency.”