This week the families of the Equality Can’t Wait campaign are going door to door in Ardoyne calling for action to ensure social housing on the Dunnes/Hillview site on the Crumlin road. On the first night over three hundred Ardoyne residents signed the petition calling for MLAs and Councillors to intervene to ensure social housing.
The North Belfast site is one of five major sites identified by the families across the city with the capacity to house well over 1,000 families. The sites are Dunnes/Hillview, Mackies, Monagh Bypass, Sirocco Quays and Belfast Harbour. They recently met with political parties to call for action including Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and People Before Profit – all of whom are now backing the ‘#BuildHomesNow’ campaign.
Equality Can't Wait group member Mary said;
“The support has been great. Everyone we have met, both politicians and people on the doors, have supported our campaign. Now we need to see that support turned into actual homes for families. Dunnes Stores/Hillview is a potential game-changer. It is one of the last sites in north Belfast capable of addressing the housing crisis”.
There are over 12000 on the social housing waiting list in Belfast with over 6000 in ‘housing stress’. Yet, only 542 homes were completed in 2015.
Support: The residents have secured the support of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner. Locally, The Human Rights Commission, the Children’s Commissioner and most recently the Equality Commission have called for action to tackle religious inequality in housing. The families are hoping the new Assembly Executive will take action and develop a strategy to tackle religious inequality.
The group are further encouraged by a recent meeting with the Chairperson of NICVA, Seamus Mc Aleavey (who has expressed an interest in relocating to the Dunnes/Hillview site in partnership with the Social Security Agency and DSD). Mr McAleavey said that if the people of north Belfast want social housing at Dunnes/Hillview, NICVA would support them.
The families attendied a Hustings on homelessness and housing at Girdwood Community Hub on Friday 15th April to ask if the candidates support a strategy to tackle religious inequality in housing and if they support social housing on Dunnes/Hillview.
Seán Brady, Development Worker with PPR who supports the ECW group said it’s time for action;
‘There is no doubting the need for housing and land is running out fast. But, there is willingness to build from the NIHE and NIFHA and there’s community and political support. Equality Can’t Wait will be knocking on doors the next number of weeks to demonstrate the sheer need experienced by families and the strength of support for social housing. There is no excuse not to build social housing at Dunnes.’