Council reveal Holyland housing plan

Published Monday, 26 March 2012
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Belfast City Council has revealed its blueprint for dealing with housing problems in the Holyland area of south Belfast.

Council reveal Holyland housing plan
Students in the Holylands on St Patrick's Day in 2010. (© Pacemaker)

A city-wide student accommodation strategy is amongst the seven recommendations in the 114-page document, which launched by the council on Monday.

It identifies an over-reliance on the private rental sector and poorly regulated HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) as some of the problems in the heavily-populated area.

The report says there must be a "dynamic overhaul" of how the Holyland and wider university area fit into Belfast's development as a "learning city".

A need for purpose-built student housing in the area is also highlighted.

Of the approximately 42,000 students in Belfast, the universities provide only slightly more than 2,600 accommodation places.

Adrianne Peltz, NUS-USI

Councillor Pat McCarthy said: "The problems associated with the Holyland have been well-documented over the last few years and as a representative of that area, I'm very aware of the impact that has had on the long-term residents.

"The council and all the partners involved in this study are determined that this report won't gather dust on a shelf.

"While there is no overnight solution and while it will require partnership working, I'm confident that the report has given us realistic and achievable solutions that can help bring about positive, long-term change in the Holyland which will benefit the city as a whole."

The cost of managing the problems associated with the Holyland has increased by 350% between 2006 and 2010 and "cannot be sustained long term".

Issues including anti-social behaviour, high housing concentration and parking and environmental problems have plagued the area over the past decade.

But it was scenes of public disorder on St Patrick's Day three years ago that sparked calls for major changes.

Reacting to the report, the local residents' group said they are hopeful that the recommendations, if fully implemented, can solve the problems in the university area.

"For the first time ever we now have a report which is independent, hard data to actually show the way forward for the Holyland," Liam Kielty told UTV.

"If there's full implementation of it, backed up at ministerial level, then there is a path at long last to alleviate the long-suffering residents."

NUS-USI, the representative body for over 200,000 higher and further education students in Northern Ireland, has also called for more student halls of residence to address the issues.

"It is staggering that only one in every 16 students lives in halls in Northern Ireland - yet in cities around the UK, like Cardiff or Leeds, around one in five students live in university accommodation," NUS-USI President Adrianne Peltz said.

"We must remember that students face very severe financial pressures and that many who live in private rented accommodation do so because it is much cheaper than living in halls. The challenge is for universities to make sure that staying in halls of residence can be more affordable for all," she added.

© UTV News
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