Homeless Increase Coincides With Less Afforable Housing

The number of homeless people in Northern Ireland has risen by 15%, it emerged last night. The figures were revealed in a major report from the Housing Executive which was launched just one day before Sir John Semple’s final report on affordable housing in Ulster.

The new document shows the number of homeless people here is now 4,782. At one stage, a further 523 people came onto the list in a six-month period.

Spiralling house prices and investor activity have been blamed for the drop in first-time buyers, whose numbers have almost halved since 2001 (down to 33% in 2006 from 60% in 2001), and the increasing number of people in ‘housing stress’.

The report showed 15,700 people on the social housing waiting list in ‘housing stress’. Despite this, the number of homeowners overall has grown, with 69% (484,000) of Ulster’s houses in private hands. This is due to the construction of 14,000 new homes and 2,500 Housing Executive house sales.

Minister for Social Development David Hanson, who launched the report, said the findings would contribute to an “evidence base” for housing policy decisions to be made by a future Assembly in a bid to provide affordable housing here. Mr Hanson said the Housing Executive document will contribute to the ongoing debate.

Meanwhile, Paddy McIntyre, chief executive of the Housing Executive, said: ” Spiralling house prices coupled with an extremely active investor market has led to a growing affordability problem throughout Northern Ireland.”

He said the number of people in ‘housing stress’ would keep rising unless there is a “significant increase in the construction of affordable new homes”.