Housebuilding growth in Northern Ireland welcome but political impasse leaves social and affordable housing behind
The number of new homes each year in Northern Ireland continues to increase, driven by the recovery of private sector development according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland needs more homes that are affordable.
Justin Cartwright, CIH Northern Ireland policy and engagement manager was responding to new statistics released today by the Department for Communities. The department’s Northern Ireland housing bulletin shows the number of new dwellings commenced in 2018-19 was 8,424 of which 89 per cent were private.
The number of homes completed over this period grew by ten per cent on the previous year, continuing long-term growth.
Justin said: “This is very welcome news – official estimates suggest Northern Ireland needs around 7,200 homes each year to keep up with things like population growth and demolition of older housing. In our view this is a conservative figure, so it’s great to see almost 8,500 new homes started over the year which is closer to the number we need.
“However, housing supply remains an issue for lower income households and people who need social housing. 1,786 new social homes were provided over the period – an increase on the previous year. It’s welcome that social housing investment continues to be given relatively high priority in Northern Ireland.
“At the same time the number falls short of the 2,000 homes the Housing Executive says are needed. This number would be difficult to achieve in the current environment, due to budgeting and associated issues that have arisen from the political impasse.
“In addition to working in an environment of political uncertainty, social housing providers are working under the growing weight of welfare reform. Up to 34,000 Northern Ireland households will be hit by the bedroom tax in March next year risking rent arrears and therefore fewer social homes built, since rents go towards loan repayments for new housebuilding.
“The lack of housing and social security policy development is worrying – we need an Executive to make the case for more social and affordable housing and to ensure that legislation, funding and support is in place to make it happen.”