Housing Executive ‘must be allowed to build’

People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann
People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann

The Housing Executive (HE) should not face restrictions which prevent it borrowing so it can build thousands more social homes and create job opportunities, local Councillors have said.

They were speaking as they passed a motion in the Guildhall proposed by Sinn éin Councillor Patricia Logue backing a campaign for full duty applicant status to be awarded to people who are living in homeless shelters and temporary accommodation.

People Before Profit Colr. Shaun Harkin said: “We really do need to follow through on what the corporate position of this Council is which is to support the HE on its right to borrow and go on a massive social housing build campaign right across the north, he said, adding that Welfare Reform would result in more people forced to live on the streets and in hostels. “This isn’t an issue that is going to go away,” Colr. Harkin warned.

DUP Ald. Maurice Devenney agreed the HE should be allowed to borrow on its assets. “When someone is homeless it must be the most stressful time in their life, be it a person on their own or a person with a young family,” he said.

UUP Ald. Darren Guy said: “Homelessness is a big problem in the town, and in other cases, people are getting out of hospital and getting discharged with nowhere to go - I’ve been talking to a lot of social workers and I think that is a big problem as well.”

People Before Profit Colr. Eamonn McCann said that there were a whole lot of things the HE wasn’t allowed to do. He described the formation of the HE as one of the most progressive things to emerge here during the 1970s and warned that it “wasn’t won very easily so we should cherish it”. “One of the things underlying all this is the settled hostility of people at the upper ends of the Civil Service in NI and some in politics,” he claimed. “The HE has just short of 80,000 houses and flats, market value £3.2bn and there is no problem at all for them borrowing if they were allowed to do it and I believe it is ideological reasons why they are not allowed to do it.

“If there was to be this crash programme on social housing building by the HE it’s not just the housing list that would be affected. What do you need to build houses? You need brickies, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, glazers, roofers, electricians, you need all those trades and apprentices in those trades. There is a key here to making a big dent on our unemployment situation, on our skills base and on housing. It’s child’s play, it is dead easy to work out. This one is winnable. People agree almost unanimously this is a good idea. Why then is this not done? Why then the disconnect of what people clearly want at the bottom and what is happening at the top? I believe this is a scandal.”

Colr Logue, thanking the Council or its support, said she agreed there was a big dearth in social housing and massive waiting lists. She said that her party had launched a strategy on housing “and written all over it is that the Housing Executive should be allowed to build houses.”