In the run-up to the Assembly election coming on Thursday May 5, Homeless Connect developed a manifesto to take to political parties putting forward candidates.
We worked with our members and our policy forum to develop the manifesto. It includes ten policy proposals which, if enacted, would make a real difference in preventing and reducing homelessness here.
As polling day nears, we are going to publish a series of blogs unpacking the ten proposals and explaining why they matter.
For all our Assembly Election 2022 coverage (including the rest of our own manifesto) click here.
Increase investment for new social and genuinely affordable housing.
The stark truth is that homelessness cannot be prevented or reduced without an adequate supply of housing.
Good quality and affordable homes are necessary if we are to effectively respond to the ongoing housing and homelessness crisis in this society. Without such homes, even the best preventative legislative framework and policy will not deliver the outcomes we need to.
The social housing waiting list has grown by around 27% over the last decade.[i] The consequences of this for households on the waiting list can be serious. In some cases, individuals and families can find themselves staying for long periods in temporary accommodation because of high demand for social housing.
Unfortunately the trend looks set to continue without well-planned, consistent action and investment from the NI Executive.
While additional investment from the Department for Communities in building social housing during the 2017-2022 mandate was welcome, it remained the case that social housing new starts and completions remain too low for the needs of households living here.
In 2021, The Department of Communities had moved to introduce a new fifteen-year Housing Supply strategy. It had initially planned for the Executive to agree the Strategy before the end of the 2017-2022 mandate.[ii] However, with the collapse of the Executive the final Housing Supply Strategy was not agreed before the end of the Assembly mandate. At the time of writing, its future status remains unclear.
In our view, it will be crucial in the next mandate for the Executive to collectively agree to support a Housing Supply Strategy. If such a strategy is left only to the Department for Communities to implement on its own, it will prove impossible to deliver the housing supply we need to see. The truth is that housing supply requires input from several Executive departments. To get the number of homes built that we need to see will need collective buy-in.
Innovative policy solutions and investment which help households find suitable and (crucially) affordable accommodation for their needs will have a beneficial impact on the numbers at risk of or experiencing homelessness. This should include bringing more empty homes back in to use.[iii]
[i] Department for Communities, “Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2020-21 Section 3 Tables – Social Renting Sector”, https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/system/files/publications/communities/ni-housing-stats-20-21-tables3.ods Table 3.5.
[ii] Department for Communities, “Housing Supply Strategy: Call for Evidence”, May 2021, https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consultations/communities/dfc-housing-supply-strategy-call-for-evidence.pdf
[iii] AQW 24945/17-22– Answered November 8, 2021, Mark Durkan MLA, “To ask the Minister of Finance how many houses stand empty in each constituency.”