New housing scheme targets six areas

New housing scheme targets six areas

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has named the six areas which have been chosen for a special regeneration scheme.

The communities in north and west Belfast, and Ballymena, will undergo "concerted social, economic and physical interventions" from agencies in an effort to "reverse decline".

The selected areas are: Belfast's Lower Oldpark/Hillview, Divis/Albert Street, Tiger's Bay/Mountcollyer, Shankill/Brown Square, Andersonstown and Doury Road in Ballymena.

Mr McCausland said the pilot project is part of his 'Facing the Future' housing strategy.

Speaking ahead of a visit to some of the pilot areas, Minister McCausland explained: "While much has been done to support disadvantaged communities some initiatives have not really worked in the way that they should have.

"There are still areas blighted by dereliction and decay, with empty houses that are boarded up and land that lies derelict and undeveloped. These problems drag a community down, becoming magnets for anti-social behaviour and dumping.

In the past there was a tendency to simply bulldoze the empty properties, clear the site and walk away. But a bulldozer and some grass seed is simply not good enough

Social Development Nelson McCausland

Mr McCausland continued: "I want to see a more radical and strategic approach. An approach that truly engages with local people so what have become forgotten communities, can once again become thriving and successful.

"This has been done elsewhere and this pilot programme will allow us to try out a range of initiatives to see what works best and what could work in other places too.

"These six pilot areas meet the criteria for selection as detailed in the Housing Strategy. All are already designated areas of deprivation but, critically, have good potential for recovery with available land or properties that can be refurbished."

Many people will be incredulous that the North West has once again been overlooked by this latest initiative despite the pressing need for improved housing, infrastructure and employment in that area.

Dolores Kelly, SDLP

But Alliance Social Development spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has expressed disappointment that none of the six housing regeneration pilot areas include any shared housing.

"OFMDFM set a target to establish ten shared neighbourhood projects in their shared future strategy 'Together: Building a United Community', so it is regrettable that they have not sought to use this housing regeneration programme to meet their own target," the east Antrim MLA commented.

"This strategy committed the Minister to identify the locations of these ten shared neighbourhoods within three months, yet five months on, not one location has been identified.

"Questions must be asked of the Minister for Social Development's commitment to shared housing, especially after the plans for the regeneration of the Girdwood Barracks site in North Belfast were described by him as shared but were in actual fact just a further segregation of housing in Northern Ireland."

SDLP Deputy Leader Dolores Kelly criticised Mr McCausland for failing to set out how areas were selected.

"There was no effective equality impact assessment conducted and that is simply not good enough," the party's social development spokesperson said.

"There continues to be significant challenges in terms of housing right across this region with many areas desperately in need of regeneration. This is made all the more frustrating when we see that there is still no movement around developing the site at Girdwood for example.

"If additional funding has become available then perhaps it would be better put into the general neighbourhood renewal pot. It is essential that whatever way the Minister decides to allocate funding for housing regeneration is properly tested."

© UTV

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