A motion was passed at this weeks Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee meeting dealing with challenges facing the housing system. The motion called on Planning Services to focus on delivery and to integrate with other government agencies.

The motion proposed by Cllr Declan Murphy and seconded by Cllr Valery Harte  was given unanimous support by all Councillors present. 

Cllr Murphy stated "Background to this motion has been well rehearsed both within this Council and other forums.  We all agree we have a housing crisis and that there is a need for decisive action.  That is why I fully support the Minister’s plans “ to fundamentally address the significant challenges facing our housing system.

House building in progress at Damolly, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
House building in progress at Damolly, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

"However, one Department alone is not going to be able to solve this problem.  The gap between the number of houses we need and the number we have is growing as indicated by the most recent Housing Executive figures.  The waiting list for Newry City alone is up by 600 since October 2020.  712 applications for 1 bedroom accommodation only; 516 applications for 2 bedroom accommodation only and; 171 applications for 3 bedroom accommodation only.  That is 1 short of 1400 applications to the Housing Executive, but you need to multiply that to get the real figure for families in housing stress in Newry City. Despite the construction of some new housing developments, we are merely papering over the cracks of a dysfunctional housing system.

"Sinn Féin commends the work going into the Local Development Plan and we look forward to seeing what the “enhanced support for the delivery of social housing” by the Coucil actually entails.  We also recognise that the Council has assisted in delivering housing provision across the District, however, some of that good work, for many on the waiting list, pales into insignificance when they cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Cllr Declan Murphy.

The Slieve Gullion Councillor concluded "If we all agree that this is a crisis then we need to approach it, as you would any crises, with a radical plan.  The announcement by the Minister is a step in the right direction, but this Council needs to ensure that it does all within its power to provide opportunities and support to those vested with a duty to meet the housing needs of people from urban centres and rural settlements.

"High quality, affordable housing is not only in the interests of people’s basic human rights, but also ensures that people stay longer in the area, invest in local communities and undoubtedly this will also encourage industry to come."

Cllr Harte, who seconded the motion added "Adequate housing is universally viewed as one of the most basic human rights, to have a roof over your head for human dignity for your mental health and overall for your quality of life. In light of the recent announcement by Minister Ni Chuilin  Department of  Communities, now more than ever we need the Housing Sector, Planners etc to work together to make a start to tackle this housing crisis."

Cllr Valerie Harte

The motion stated "This Council welcomes the recent announcement by Communities Minister, Carál Ni Chuilin regarding her plans to fundamentally address the significant challenges facing our housing system.  We call on the Planning Service to urgently place more emphasis on planning as an activity that is both integrated with other local government agencies and is focused on delivery’,"

The decision is subject to ratification at the monthly Council meeting in February.

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