On Thursday 18 May, elections to Northern Ireland’s eleven councils will be held. 462 councillors will be elected to serve for the next five-year term. Homeless Connect, working with our members, produced a manifesto including eight proposals which was circulated to political parties standing for election.
Political parties standing candidates have recently been publishing their manifestos. Below you will find extracts from each of the manifestos outlining where they stand on homelessness issues as well as links to the full manifestos.
The Alliance Party published their manifesto on Thursday May 4.
Eight years after planning was devolved to Councils it is important to reflect that this was the most significant power passed to Local Government since reform back in 1973. Since then, the function has bedded in but with varied success.
Rather than taking the originally anticipated timescale of three and a half years, Local Development Plans are now envisaged to take at least 13 years, with 2028 considered an ambitious end date. Accountability measures for the Planning Appeals Commission are also lacking, targets for processing of applications are being routinely missed, and those raising environmental and other concerns are denied the third party right of appeal.
Alongside action at a regional level through the Department for Infrastructure, at a Local Government level Alliance wants to see:
- Decisions made based on the evidence and the votes of all members of planning committees recorded and published online.
- Full digitisation of the planning process in an accessible manner, from pre-application
consultation to processing of the application and any appeals arising.
- Local Development Plans developed in line with net zero obligations and encouraging shared communities, with mixed-tenure, affordable housing developments.
- Better connectivity to active travel and public transport for homes and businesses, by better utilising planning conditions and developer contributions in planning applications for new developments.
- The introduction of a minimum threshold for social and affordable homes in major housing developments.
- Expedited consideration of new renewable energy infrastructure including electric vehicle charging, battery energy storage and both on and offshore wind.
- Localised action plans to ensure the swifter turnaround of planning applications.
- Local Government playing an active part in the process of planning reform following publication of the Department for Infrastructure Review of 2011 Planning Act, NI Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee Reports on Planning in Northern Ireland, transforming culture and processes to ensure better and quicker outcomes. (p9)
Alliance believes that councils are at the centre of our communities. They should usetheir community planning powers to ensure that public services work together to for local people, joining up the different tiers of government.
We want to see:
Audits of council services to assess how councils contribute to homelessness prevention and to consider further actions that councils can take.” (p12
Aontú published their manifesto on Tuesday 9 May.
Aontú will work with Department of Communities and Housing Associations to ensure that high quality maintenance and repairs on properties are carried out in a timely fashion and unacceptable behaviour and anti social behaviour is not tolerated.
We will ensure local government services assist in homelessness prevention. We commit to conducting an audit of council services to assess how councils already contribute to homelessness prevention and to consider further actions that councils can take in this area. We will appoint a homelessness prevention lead in each council and ensure people with lived experience of homelessness are at the heart of policy development and the design of services which impact them. We will use planning powers to ensure new social and genuinely affordable housing gets built where it is needed.” (p7)
Since February last year there has been a £10,545 increase in the average price of a home, due in large part to the lack of supply in the housing market. This represents a 5.7% increase in little over a year. During the pandemic prices rose by over £25,000– this is more than many people earn in a year!
Across the North, there are over 43,000 people on social housing waiting lists but over two thirds of those on waiting lists are statutorily in housing distress. Meanwhile, over 4,200 people are homeless on our streets. The Stormont Executive is failing in its duty of care towards the people. Aontú pledges to deliver swift, sustainable housing solutions which will meet housing demands. Having a roof over your head you can call your own is not just a pipe dream but an attainable reality.
- An increased tax on homes that are empty for over 2 years without good reason and a grant to get them back into use.
- The increased power to CPO derelict houses that are the source of anti-social behaviour.
- significantly increased investment to build social and affordable homes from central government.
- State land be made available for housing
- Increased social housing responsibility for private developers
- Rent controls to regulate increases in rents in the private rental market.
- A transparent system of multi-annual budgets for social and affordable housing.
- Increased housing budget to reduce rent, house prices and housing waiting lists.
- Delivery of at least 3,500 social and affordable homes per annum.
- A ban on no fault eviction during this homelessness crisis.
- A facility to allow Credit Unions funds be channelled into the building of Social Homes.” (p18-19)
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
The Democratic Unionist Party published their manifesto on Thursday 11 May.
“Maximising land for class economic benefit
There are huge swathes of publicly owned land which currently lie derelict but have the potential to be regeneration sites in many communities. The DUP has supportedthe BUILD campaign on the Shankill Road in Belfast since its inception and we support land in communities put to use for economic development or housing.”
Planning is an issue frequently raised by both constituents and businesses as failingto deliver for them. Despite multiple reviews there remain serious problems which must be addressed in the next term.
The DUP supports:
- New, stronger deadlines for statutory consultees to meet or face penalties;
- Requirement times set between approvals and the issuing of notices;
- The creation of Stakeholder Engagement Forums within Councils to promote positive development and identify problems at an early stage;
- Environmental requirements clearly identified and adhered to by both class applicants and local authorities;
- Adequate funding of enforcement teams;
- Monitoring of conditions and consistency of approach across the eleven councils;
- More effective means of neighbourhood notification of planning applications – erection of notices and use of social media;
- The creation of powers to allow Councils to tackle dilapidated buildings.” (p14-15)
Green Party Northern Ireland
The Green Party published their manifesto on Wednesday 10 May.
“Putting communities at the heart of our planning system
Councils have the potential to transform our places into greener, cleaner and fairer communities through effective use of planning powers. The Green Party wants to use those powers to tackle inequality, help create vibrant neighbourhoods, make space for the arts and culture, improve and protect our natural environment, preserve built heritage and address the housing crisis.
We want a planning system that puts people first, and in which members of the public enjoy the same rights as developers. We want our towns and cities to be shaped by community need, not private profit. We want to see an end to dereliction and vacancies on high streets across NI, and use council powers to tackle greedy developers who leave land unused while community needs go unmet.
Your Green Councillors will:
- Push for planning decisions that consider the housing and social needs of communities over developers.
- Oppose the high densification of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in a single area. Ensure that HMO landlords are held to account for the safety and welfare of tenants and the impact of their property and its tenants on the surrounding environment.
- Support the introduction of third-party rights of planning appeal to balance the rights of communities with those of developers.
- Tackle homelessness by supporting essential crisis services, planning for and promoting affordable public housing while rejecting austerity measures such as the bedroom tax.
- Support the introduction of rent controls and legislative reform to strengthen tenants’ rights.
- Support the introduction of penalties to encourage developers and landowners to redevelop and protect buildings from falling into dereliction.
- Ensure that councils work constructively with Housing Associations and use this relationship to support more affordable housing in the places where it is needed most” (p9)
People Before Profit (PBP)
People Before Profit published their manifesto on Wednesday 18 April.
“Housing and a fairer and more democratic planning process
While our local councils have no control over most housing issues, they have some control over planning, but our planning process is broken. It favours developers and wealthy elites who view cities as a mechanism for making further profit.
Private rental accommodation and hotels are being prioritised over social housing, Democracy should be at the heart of our planning process. We reject the sell off of public land to private developers and fight for public land to be used to build social housing as well as community spaces which are free, green, and not dictated by free market economics.
We believe local councils should have a greater role in determining where and how much social housing is built, and the price of local rents. These kinds of local powers would enable local needs to be met and protect renters. People Before Profit would regenerate inner city council property and land, allowing ordinary people to live in the city. We would stop the historic character of our built heritage being sacrificed for-profit developments like office space and private apartments.
- Build public housing on public land.
- Enable local councils to ring-fence land for local housing and force developers to prioritise the building of social housing.
- Enable local councils to freeze and cap local rent prices to affordable levels.
- Resist the sell-off of public land and gentrification that forces working class people out of areas” (9-10)
Sinn Fein published their manifesto on Tuesday 9 May.
People are entitled to homes that are good quality, safe, secure, comfortable, and affordable. This should be the case for everyone regardless of whether they are homeowners, living in social housing or private renting.
Sinn Féin wants to introduce further legislation and regulation to protect private renters from unfair rents, improve housing standards and end unfair letting fees. We need an Executive back in place to achieve this.
Sinn Féin minister Deirdre Hargey announced the biggest shakeup of the housing system in 50 years with the aim of delivering over 100,000 homes over 15 years across the north. We want to target areas with the most housing need, in both urban and rural areas, so people can live in the communities of their choice. Councils play a central role in increasing significantly the supply of housing across the north.
Councils are legally obliged to produce Local Development Plans which set out how areas will be developed and how land in its district will be used, ie for housing; amenities; commercial development.
Sinn Féin is committed to delivering Local Development Plans that prioritise, understand and meet the housing needs of the community, including the importance of proximity and access to services and amenities for residents.
The role of councils in identifying, and in some cases providing, land for housing development is vital to ensuring people access good quality, safe, secure, comfortable, and affordable homes. We want to see more land in each council area made available for social and affordable housing.
Councils also play a central role in the planning process. We want to see an improved planning system which addresses unnecessary delays and works for the benefit of our community and environment.
Homelessness must also be addressed. While the solutions to homelessness are wider than housing alone, and will take considerable effort across Executive departments and sectors, building more homes is an important part of the solution.
Councils play a key role in supporting our most vulnerable in society, including those who are homeless. Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring councils continue to play its part to help reduce homelessness.
SINN FÉIN PRIORITIES FOR HOUSING ARE:
- Identify and make available land in each council area for social/affordable housing
- Improve the planning process to address unnecessary delay
- Support interventions to tackle homelessness and support the homeless” (p8)
“SINN FÉIN’S PRIORITIES FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES ARE:
- Improving access to rural social and affordable housing” (p11)
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
The SDLP published their manifesto on Friday May 12.
“We also want to ensure meaningful Co-Design with disabled residents and councils, to discuss policies and ensure public realms that meet the needs of deaf and disabled people. We need to see improvements rural public transport. The SDLP will campaign for more accessible social housing and emergency accommodation for disabled people.” (p17)
“Too often the planning system is failing to deliver to ensure the redevelopment of our communities and the building of new homes. The SDLP wants to see reform of our planning system. We will be involved in delivering Local Development Plans and work to ensure cooperation between the bodies tasked to deliver planning. For example, in Belfast, we want to ensure all citizens benefit from the Local Development Plan.” (p26)
“The SDLP will also press for a review of vacant property rates to ensure that land & property owners either ‘use-it or tax-it’ to promote regeneration and redevelopment.” (p27)
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV)
TUV published their manifesto on Tuesday May 9.
“A fair deal on Planning
There is continuing concern about the connections between some political parties and developers which has caused considerable public unease. This is one area of additional power to councils which we believe has failed to gain public confidence. Transparency is key when it comes to planning. Decisions need to be made on policy, not because of politics.
TUV believes that everyone is entitled to decent housing. The most common request of Housing Executive and Housing Association tenants is for repairs to be carried out in a timely manner. Given the expenditure proposed by others on items which deliver no tangible day to day ben/fit – such as an Irish Language Act – we believe that adequate funding can be found for basics like preventative maintenance and investment into the direct labour organisation DLO creating employment.
The dereliction of housing in working class areas cannot continue. TUV proposes a policy of one house down and at least one house up in urban areas
The current policy which allows people from overseas who arrive in Northern Ireland to jump to the head of the housing list needs to be revisited.” (p11)
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
The UUP published their manifesto on Tuesday May 9.
“Northern Ireland needs more housing, infrastructure and greener energy. None of these can be achieved if we do not overhaul our planning system and invest in our water and sewage system. Ulster Unionists are determined to shake up planning and take decisive action to increase our water and sewage infrastructure investment and have published proposals to achieve this” (p4)
“Our priorities for Belfast
Addressing the Need for More Affordable Housing
A safe, warm and affordable house is a necessity of life and Ulster Unionists are committed to ensuring everybody in Belfast has an appropriate, well-heated and affordable home. Unfortunately, over 40,000 are on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive lists. Across Northern Ireland and only around 2,000 social or affordable homes are built every year. We will continue to call for more social housing provision and will work closely with the NIHE, housing associations and other bodies to deliver more affordable homes for Belfast.” (p9)
“Our Priorities for Causeway Coast and Glens
For those living in coastal towns, rarely can a child of a permanent resident afford a home along the North Coast. They are being driven away from their family towns because of excessively high prices, driven by second homeowners. We will voice our concerns for more affordable social housing or for increased rates for those owning their second home.” (p10)
“Our priorities for Derry City and Strabane
“The Derry/Londonderry and Strabane area has some of the highest amount of people in Northern Ireland presenting as homeless. There has been a particular lack of new social housing in the Waterside area, and although a new site has commenced at Caw, this falls well short of the housing requirement. Ulster Unionists will continue to campaign to increase social housing builds across the council area and will work to reconfigure how social housing is delivered across Northern Ireland” (p11)
Our priorities for Newry, Mourne and Down
“We will support the development of housing schemes, working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive, which serve to regenerate our City, Towns and Villages across the District” (p16)