Housing Executive must lead on hostel accommodation

Hostel accommodation, and support, for homeless women should be provided for by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Currently there is no permanent facility anywhere in Northern Ireland.

Belfast’s Regina Coeli hostel, which had been run by the Legion of Mary, closed in January of this year and no alternative service has been provided.

The Workers Party has contacted the Department for the Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive demanding not only a commitment to open a new hostel facility but also transparency in the process.

The DfC has said that a ‘preferred provider’ has been identified and that negotiations are on-going. But they refuse to name that potential provider – most likely a local charity – because they say the information is commercial confident.

Homeless hostel accommodation should be provided directly by the NIHE. No matter how good a charitable organisation is, the statutory responsibility to provide the service rests with the NIHE. The former hostel staff, with their wealth of experience are also the best placed group of people run a new hostel.

The lack of women only accommodation is not a simple administrative matter. Health, well-being and lives are at stake. The Housing Executive, supported by health social services and mental health services, must step up immediately, assume responsibility and provide a first class ssrvice wioth first class staff.

Picture: Workers Party members suporting the Regina Coeli staff last year

Housing Executive changes “long overdue”

There are currently around 40,000 people on public housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland : 25,00 of those are in ‘housing stress’.

Changes to the way in which the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is funded and the role it can play in the provision and development of public housing here,  has been welcomed by the Workers Party as ” long overdue”.

Party spokesperson Joanne Lowry said, “If we are to have an effective and dynamic strategy which addresses the chronic shortage of public housing, then the Northern Ireland Housing Executive must be at its centre and assume its rightful role as lead agency,”

“This announcement is a welcome start but much remains to be done, and significant funding needs to be secured to deliver high quality public housing across Northern Ireland”, she said.

However, the Party’s welcome comes with a warning. “We must of course wait to see the detail of these announcements”, Joanne said, ” and one of the aspects which we will be scrutinising will be the Housing Executive’s regional role. The establishment of the NIHE was one of the many gains of the civil rights movement in the early 1970s. It must remain as the lead housing agency in Northern Ireland and not be diluted into another housing association”.

The proposed changes include allowing the NI Housing Executive to build again, retain and maintain existing stock – a demand the Workers Party has been making for more than twenty years. There are also proposed changes to the private rented sector affording tenants more security of tenure and an undertaking to review to ‘right to buy’ policy introduced during the Thatcher era which severely depleted the available public housing stock.