OPINION: Hundreds of new homes must have facilities

Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight.
Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight.

A few weeks ago we saw 260 new social homes approved at Skeoge by Derry City and Strabane District Council. This brings the total of new social homes under construction at Skeoge this year to 600 and when completed will bring the total new builds in this development to almost 1,200.

It is estimated that when the building programme on the Skeoge lands is completed in five/six years time over 2,500 family homes, social and private, will have been provided through this project.

Other housing associations are also constructing much needed homes in other areas of the city which will help alleviate the stress on the current waiting lists.

It is great to see new social homes come on stream but along with the homes must come leisure, shopping, youth and educational facilities. Community infrastructure needs to be part of the criteria for planning approval when considering these building projects.

We should not allow another situation to arise such as when Galliagh was built without community facilities and it took over 30 years to have a Community Centre provided which will, hopefully, be in place in the near future.

Sinn Féin will continue to lobby for more social homes at every opportunity to ensure that the increasing numbers waiting on a home is reversed. We will also press for the inclusion of community and recreational facilities such as a 4g football pitch and youth facilities for all developments like the Skeoge lands.

A community debate needs to take place with all elected representatives, community activists and the statuary bodies to build a business case and help draw down funding for these projects. Sinn Féin will support any debate or discussion around provision of proper community infrastructure at Skeoge or any other housing developments in the city.

I accept that extensive numbers of families on waiting lists means that young single people requiring housing for the first time will find it very hard to access social housing in the short term. That is why we must keep up the pressure on the Department to make the necessary funds available so that we can continue to reduce housing stress.

No one in this day and age should be without a roof over their head or have to depend on the charity of others for a place to sleep.

Housing is a right not a privilege. But this basic human right is still being denied to hundreds of people in this city and thousands throughout the North mainly because of British Government serial cuts to the North’s budget and continued austerity measures.

It is totally unacceptable that people are living in over-crowded conditions reminiscent of the early decades of the last century and it is deplorable that the number of people deemed homeless and in housing stress in this city stands at over 2,000,

We have to find a way to build more social homes but at the same time ensure that it is not just houses that we build but communities with proper infrastructure.