Call for major house building drive as rent rises outpace London

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Sinn Féin Councillor, Christopher Jackson, has called for a massive social house building drive to offset rocketing rents in the North that, according to new data, are rising at a higher rate than in London.

He claimed the Department of Communities (DfC) and the Housing Executive (NIHE) had failed to address what he described as a “catastrophic shortage of social housing.”

Colr. Jackons was speaking after HomeLet, part of the Barbon Insurance Group, estimated rents in the North were up 4.5 per cent year-on-year.

Indeed, the HomeLet Rental Index showed the average ‘renter’ here was paying £653 a month in July 2018 - up £28 from the £625 July 2017 average. The UK average, by contrast, was up only 1.8 per cent, while even rents in London rose by only 3.3 per cent.

Remarkably, it is now cheaper to rent a home in Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire, Humberside and the East Midlands than it is in the North.

“I am in no doubt that this rise is being driven by landlords in the private rented sector,” said Colr. Jackson.

“Within 14 years the private rented sector has quadrupled here while at the same time tens of thousands of people in desperate need of social housing are stuck on a waiting list that the NIHE and the DfC are unwilling to tackle and reduce,” he added.

He said rising rents were driving people into poverty and called for an accelerated social house building programme to address the issue.

“Higher rents in the private sector have already been shown to be driving poverty within low income households and any increase in those rents are bound to make it even more difficult for struggling families to make ends meet. The NIHE and the DfC must take action to redress this by urgently a prioritising a major build programme of social homes,” he said.

An NIHE spokesperson said: “The NIHE continues to work in partnership with the DfC and housing associations to ensure delivery of the Programme for Government targets for new social housing in NI. As part of our Housing Investment Plan for Derry City & Strabane we are supporting housing associations to build new social homes across the council area.

“In 2017/18 269 new social housing units were completed in the Derry City & Strabane area. “At March 2018 there were 866 new housing units under construction and over the next 3 years a further 1,305 new social homes are planned. This is in response to the projected assessment of housing need for 2017-22 in the council area.”

The NIHE said £31 million was invested in its Social Housing Development Programme in Derry and Strabane last year.