SDLP Social Justice spokesperson, Mark H Durkan MLA, has marked the fiftieth anniversary of the legislation that created the Northern Ireland Housing Executive ("NIHE") and warned that its future must be safeguarded with proper funding.
The Foyle MLA said:
"Ending the sectarian discrimination in social housing provision overseen by gerrymandered councils and ensuring fair allocation and improvement of housing conditions for all was a key demand of the civil rights movement. As the first chairman of the Derry Housing Association, John Hume recognised that secure housing was a human rights issue. He made clear to the Wilson Government back in the 1960s that housing had to be taken out of the hands of partisan councils and a dedicated, properly funded agency established."
"Efforts by Hume and many others led to the Housing Executive Act, which became law in February 1971. Despite the monumental challenges of violence and discrimination, a solution was forged. Now, fifty years on the NIHE is recognised worldwide as a model of the provision and allocation of social housing. It is not by no means perfect but the NIHE has stood the test of time: weathering political unrest, conflict, and underfunding."
"In celebrating the anniversary of the NIHE, we must not be complacent about the housing crisis we face. There are over 40,000 applicants on the waiting list for a home. People across the North have the choice between homelessness and extortionate private tenancies, where families can wake up one morning to learn that they have four weeks to pack up their lives and find another home."
"The former Communities Minister made a cursory reference back in November to plans to reclassify the landlord component of the NIHE. Getting the much-needed funds to enable the NIHE to deal with its mounting backlog of maintenance and repairs work and to begin building homes again shouldn't result in increased rents, insecure tenure, and less accountability for tenants. The SDLP will play our part in safeguarding the next fifty years of the NIHE and ensuring it gets the funding it requires to provide and maintain homes for those who need them."