‘Lack of social housing for disabled’

The Housing Executive and Department for Communities have declared their commitment to meeting needs, in answer to a claim that ‘startling’ figures show a ‘concerning’ lack of social housing for the disabled in Upper Bann.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 3:17 pm
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3 March 2017 - NI Assembly Election 2017 Count at Banbridge Leisure Centre for Newry & Armagh and Upper Bann constituencies. Dolores Kelly(SDLP) makes her acceptance speech. Photo by Tony Hendron / Press Eye.

Figures shared with MLA Dolores Kelly show only 10 social housing bungalows built inUpper Bann in the past five years, and indeed responses to Assembly Questions submitted to the Communities Minister show only 164 bungalows were built across NI in the same period, despite 8,072 applicants currently awaiting ground-floor accommodation.

“Day to day,” said Mrs Kelly, “my office is contacted by constituents seeking housing support. Many of those cases involve applicants with mobility issues waiting years for suitable accommodation.

“These people are desperate to regain some semblance of independence, yet their housing situation has not been conducive to their needs.

“Bungalow build in Upper Bann totals 10 within the past five years and only one has been built within the past two years. How then can we give assurances to disabled applicants that they will be provided for?

“I appreciate that the requirement for ground-floor accommodation can be met through alternative types of housing such as flats and not solely bungalows; the figures are startling nonetheless.

“Otherwise, at the current rate of bungalow construction we would be waiting approximately 244 years just to clear the existing waiting list for ground-floor social housing.”

Mrs Kelly said the creation of improved and accessible social housing must remain a key objective going forward.

“The Department for Communities has just launched a public consultation on the Housing Supply Strategy,” she added, “and I would encourage anyone struggling on housing waiting lists to share their experiences and help inform this piece of work going forward.”

The Housing Executive, meanwhile, said it remained committed to delivering housing solutions for people with disabilities across NI.

“We deliver this through the re-letting of existing, accessible housing stock and newbuild housing provided by the Social Housing Development Programme,” a spokesperson said.

“We are also working closely with housing association partners to deliver new wheelchair-accessible homes.

“There have been 260 new social housing completions in Upper Bann in the last decade.

“Of these 260 units, 21 are wheelchair-accessible properties, of which six are flats, 14 are bungalows and one is a house.

“There are currently 85 new social housing units under construction in Upper Bann and 11 are wheelchair-accessible properties.

“The units under construction also include a dedicated five-unit wheelchair-accessible bungalow housing scheme on our former land at Drumellan, Craigavon.

“A further 188 social housing units are programmed for Upper Bann in the next three years, and we will work closely with housing associations to ensure adequate levels of wheelchair-accessible homes are included in these proposals.”

The Department for Communities said minister Deirdre Hargey, had begun the biggest reform of social housing in over 50 years.

“This includes building more homes, where they are needed,” a spokesperson said.

“When the transformational plan to make our housing system better was outlined, a key component was to improve housing, and to make sure there is a lot more of it.

“This includes delivering more homes that meet the needs of our society, now and in the future.

“The minister has also delivered, in 20/21, 2,403 new social starts (the highest annual figure for over a decade) and an increased newbuild budget for this year.

“This £162m investment will help to build many more homes.”