Families from the Equality Can’t Wait (ECW) campaign, supported by human rights organisation, Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), last week hand delivered a proposal for social housing entitled “Build Homes Now - A Sustainable Solution For Dunnes / Hillview, North Belfast” to TSA Planning Consultants, Killultagh Properties and Belfast City Council planning service. The proposal was also sent to MLAs, Councillors and Assembly departments responsible for planning and housing.
In June Killultagh Properties and TSA Planning Consultants began a consultation on proposals to develop 6 retail units, a car show room and a drive through café at Dunnes / Hillview. The previously failed retail venture has been lying vacant for years while waiting lists for social housing have exploded. Despite this, the plans brought forward by developers exclude social housing.
ECW are campaigning for the right to housing to be realised for those impacted by homelessness and an end to religious inequality in housing impacting the Catholic community in North Belfast particularly. ECW protested at the site in June with the support of Sinn Féin, the Green Party and People Before Profit. The Alliance Party and SDLP have also signed the group’s petition calling for social housing at the site.
Kelly Mon from ECW explained:
“Our report shows that the current developers plans fail thousands of families. They also fail to meet the Council and Assembly’s strategic objectives to tackle the housing crisis. Dunnes/Hillview is nearly twice the size of Girdwood and there is plenty of space for housing and shops or other things. One of the basic human needs is shelter, not a drive through restaurant and a car show room."
The Dunnes/Hillview site is located in the middle of areas experiencing some of the highest demand for social housing. It is one of the last big opportunities capable of addressing housing need and religious inequality in North Belfast. The latest figures from the Housing Executive (March 2014) outline a need for 666 new and additional social homes in Catholic communities across north Belfast, and a surplus of 72 social homes among the Protestant community.
The families delivered their petition with over 1000 signatures with their proposals today to all decision makers responsible. The proposal details the range of human rights and local policy failings in the developer’s current proposal and offers a sustainable alternative developed in partnership with award winning architects to create much needed homes and jobs at the windfall site.
Working with PPR and Mc Cartan Muldoon architects, an alternative plan has been drawn up for the site. It would include social housing, and amenities, as well allowing for the economic potential of the site to be realised. Such a plan would help the NI Executive, the Department of Communities the Department of Infrastructure and Belfast City Council to meet their obligations and realise their strategic objectives in terms of housing and planning. These are:
- International human rights obligations which ensure the right to housing, a right which must be progressively realised and provided without discrimination.
- Equality obligations, which put legal duties on the government to eradicate religious inequality.
- The new Programme for Government, which aims to reduce the number of households in housing stress. This is complemented by the Executives housing strategy which calls for affordable and decent housing for all.
- Planning guidance and obligations on the departments and the council when they are planning and making decisions, such as the need to ensure adequate supply of land, that housing needs are met, that windfall sites be used to build housing, and that communities are involved in the process, and that planning satisfies sustainable development goals – which call for decent housing for everyone.
Seán Brady from PPR said:
“This proposal will provide guidance for decision-makers at Council and the Assembly to ensure they meet their human rights obligations to the people of Belfast. In June this year, the United Nations issued recommendations on the performance of the Assembly in relation to the right to housing. Once again housing inequality in North Belfast was highlighted as an unresolved problem. It is to be hoped that private developers and government decision makers alike listen to the calls of the United Nations and the thousands of families waiting for a place to call home."