A successor to the 1968 Derry Housing Action Committee is to be launched in the city to campaign for housing rights for local people.
Members of the new Derry Housing Action Campaign held a protest outside vacant properties at Baronet Street yesterday ahead of the launch of the new organisation at the Playhouse on Thursday at 7pm, to mark Homelessness Awareness Week.
Those attending the protest included representatives from People Before Profit, who are founding the new group, and Independent Derry & Strabane Councillors Darren O’Reilly and Gary Donnelly.
The new body will take on similar issues to those addressed by its historic predecessor.
The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) was credited with highlighting the plight of families forced to live in crowded conditions with little to no chance of securing a decent home of their own, and of helping to bring about the Housing Executive.
There are currently over 4,000 families and single people in Derry and Strabane on the housing waiting list, many of them in housing stress or listed as homeless.
Speaking at the protest yesterday, one of those involved in the new campaign, Willie White, said there were hundreds upon hundreds of empty properties across Derry, many of which could provide a home for people on the waiting list. He added that many of the housing issues which had led to the creation of DHAC 50 years ago were clearly resurfacing and evident in Derry today. “This is exactly why we are setting up the Derry Housing Action Campaign again,” he declared.
Fellow member Justyn McNicholl added that there was today more homeless people in the city than back in the late ’60s. “Obviously there is more of a population, but the thing is there is also more money and there’s £240 m due to be spent on transportation over the next four years and I think if you were to ask people whether they wanted a transport hub or a rapid transport system or housing, guess which one they would want to choose?
“We should get all those other things, but I think the priority is to get people a home.”
He added that housing stress had a major impact on mental health.
In a statement issued by the new campaign group yesterday, they stated: “The appalling housing situation of the 1960s proved a crucial factor in the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and its first march in Derry on October 5, 1968 was organised by the Derry Housing Action Committee. One of the major gains of the CRM was the creation of the Housing Executive which is now under threat from Stormont.
“The time has come for another housing campaign; a campaign that would expose the real reasons for the present housing crisis; a campaign that would fight for major investment in council owned public housing under the management of a properly funded Housing Executive and directly accountable to its tenants and to the general public through their elected representatives.”
An open invitation has been issued to those concerned about housing to come to the Playhouse on Thursday at 7pm.