The Housing Crisis is about much more than reclassification of Housing Associations asserts Paddy Mackel from NIPSA. He was responding to a BBC news item which in its headline suggests that “Northern Ireland could face housing shortage”.
Paddy Mackel pointed out that there has been a housing shortage for the last decade or more, with more than 40,000 on the housing waiting list, 20,000 in housing stress and approximately 10,000 officially recorded as being homeless. He commented:
“The real crisis in public housing is not solely, or even primarily, about the reclassication of ‘private businesses’, such as Housing Associations. Rather it is about the disgraceful political decision not to properly fund the Housing Executive to build homes for citizens and upgrade its existing stock. The provision of public housing is a key feature of any decent society, provided by a publicly owned and publicly accountable Housing Authority. There should be no compromise on this key principle”.
The absence of an Assembly has meant that these issues have been drifting for some time without a Minister in charge to provide political direction.
Paddy Mackel concluded:
“It is interesting that many political parties remain in favour of lowering Corporation Tax, in essence corporate welfare for big business, in the hope that some new jobs might be created. To do so would result in the block grant being reduced by at least £300 million every year. Contrast that with what could be achieved if the provision of public housing was made a political priority for those same parties. Thousands of constructions jobs would be created overnight, along with much needed apprenticeships for young people. We would be able to tackle the growing homelessness emergency and provide hope for those in housing stress. That is what a progressive society should do. That is the real news story”.