Almost 4,000 in housing stress in Derry & Strabane

The number of applicants on the social housing waiting list in Derry & Strabane has risen by almost 20% to over 5,500 in the past year.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 1:44 pm

Of those applicants, the vast majority have been deemed as being in housing stress, local Councillors were told at a meeting this week.

Over the past year the NI Housing Executive has spent over £95m in the Derry City and Strabane Council area and members of the Governance and Planning Committee were informed by NIHE Chief Executive Grainia Long that the projected spend for the next year (21/22) is £33.74M, excluding spend on social housing construction.

Ms Long said the planned maintenance and stock improvement spend has ‘grown significantly’ with an increase to £15.27M. She added: “£8.6M has been allocated for housing support services. Coming out of the pandemic as we recover it is critically important we invest in people and communities and their housing support needs and this is a critical spend for us to ensure the most vulnerable people have their needs met across our communities.”

Homes under construction in the Skeoge area of the city recently.

The presentation showed that social housing waiting lists and housing stress had increased whilst allocations had dropped.

In the past year there were a total of 5,557 applicants, a 19% increase on the previous year with  3,951 (71%) people in housing stress.

The highest percentage of applicants in housing stress was single people (1,987 – 51%), followed by small families (1,138 – 29%) and older people (442 – 11%).

Ms Long added: “Waiting list trends is not a good news story. Waiting list numbers are going up both in terms of the number of applicants and for those in housing stress. Allocation is not keeping pace in the way we want it to. I am particularly concerned about the numbers of young women we are seeing coming forward in housing stress, we are seeing that increasingly so.  There is also a significant need for family accommodation.

“Reducing the gap between demand and supply has to be a priority both in terms of increasing the allocations we can make locally and also working with our partners to add to supply as quickly as we can.”

The presentation showed that in 2020/21 there were 207 new social homes completed with 1,082 new social homes currently on-site.  To tackle future housing issues it is estimated that 3,890 new social housing units are needed over the next five years. The 2021/24 Social Housing Development Plan has 1,797(gross) new social housing units programmed.

SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell said: “There’s nearly 4,000 people across this City and District on waiting lists who are experiencing housing stress. That’s the highest figure per capita across all 11 councils in the North and these figures are increasing every single year.”

Referring to the Social Housing Development Plan, the Ballyarnett DEA councillor added: “I note there is an ambitious build programme, 200 units were completed last year, we have 1000 units onsite currently and there were 1800 programmed by 2024.  The Social Development Programme, the units that are to be built and planned by 2024, do we think that is sufficient to meet the target, that’s if a target exists? In my view we aren’t building enough.”

Ms Long replied: “We resource the measurement of housing need very well in the organisation.

“The programme for this City and district is a busy one and what is critical is making sure we get large sites approved. If there was a risk to the programme this year I would say it’s the number of very large developments we need to get through planning.”

By Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter