Derry & Strabane social housing waiting list tops 6,000

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Derry City and Strabane District Council members have warned that over 6,000 applicants are now on social housing waiting lists.

In February, members passed a motion to establish a Housing Crisis Taskforce that would work with the Department for Communities(DfC), the Housing Executive(HE), Housing Associations and other organisations with knowledge and expertise to “drive forward the building of social housing and affordable homes across the district.”

At a Governance and Strategic Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 4, People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin said the council’s inaugural task force meeting had led to “constructive discussion”, but more was needed to address the “urgent issue”.

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“I know every councillor and alderman is more than aware of the desperation that a lot of people have right now for a new house,” he added.

New social homes under construction off Buncrana Road in the Templemore area of Derry.New social homes under construction off Buncrana Road in the Templemore area of Derry.
New social homes under construction off Buncrana Road in the Templemore area of Derry.

“We talked about the number of applicants on the housing waiting list being almost 6,000, but we are now well over 6 ,000 and the last report says that we were at 6,129.

“So you know this is an urgent issue for us to address, and we are eagerly awaiting an outline from the Executive as to what their plans will be for housebuilding in the coming years.”

SDLP councillor Rory Farrell said the first meeting was “useful and well-attended”, but voiced concern about the HE’s projected figures for the district.

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Councillor Farrell said: “For the next five years they’re saying that we need 4,000 new homes across the city and district, and we have over 6,000 people on a waiting list at the minute.

Elected representatives Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit, Rory Farrell, SDLP and Sandra Duffy, Sinn Féin.Elected representatives Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit, Rory Farrell, SDLP and Sandra Duffy, Sinn Féin.
Elected representatives Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit, Rory Farrell, SDLP and Sandra Duffy, Sinn Féin.

“That doesn’t include people who are in existing tenancies that are on the transfer list who need more suitable, larger accommodations.

“The HE are saying that the projected need for the next five years is 4,000, but we need 6,000 homes now.

“So it would be useful to have a discussion with the HE around how those figures are calculated, because they don’t accurately capture the need.

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“If they don’t get those figures right, the new housing build programme is never going to adequately address the crisis.”

Sinn Féin councillor Sandra Duffy said councillors had to be mindful of the “significant number” of people living in non-standard accommodation.

Councillor Duffy concluded: “These are some of the most vulnerable within our city and district, and recent figures say there are over 400 people placed within non-standard accommodation in the city centre alone.

“We need to be very mindful, when we’re talking about the housing crisis, that we also include the most vulnerable within that because we need to be the voice for people who can’t speak up for themselves.”

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The Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) back in November last year said social housing demands in Derry and Strabane cannot be met without legislative changes at Stormont.

NIFHA’s Chief Executive, Seamus Leheny, was speaking as he gave a deputation to Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on November 28, 2023.

He told the Council that there were over 45,000 applicants for social housing in Northern Ireland, leading to a ‘housing crisis’.

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter