PEOPLE in Strabane are having to wait longer and longer to secure a house.
New figures released by the Department of the Communities show that in 2016 locals waited almost 17 months to gain accommodation – this figure increased to 21 months in 2017 and rose again to over two years (26 months) in 2018.
The figures also show that a staggering 421 people from Strabane town are on the social housing waiting list and 260 of these are classed as being under ‘housing stress’ and urgently in need of social housing.
Despite such high numbers, only 43 of these people have been allocated a house within the last 12 months.
What is more, amid an unprecedented need for housing in the area only a small proportion of social homes are currently under construction – a total of 32 overall.
While 68 are due to start this year and next, the Department of Communities admits that these dwellings could be stalled subject to planning approval and acquiring sites.
With social housing at a crisis point in the town, a proposed development could see over 180 social houses brought to the town over a five year period from Habinteg Housing Association to help mitigate the problem.
The major new housing development is programmed to start on the former Adria Site at Beechmount Avenue, with an anticipated 68 units in the first phase due to begin in 2019/2020.
Sinn Féin councillor Brian McMahon welcomed the news.
“We are delighted at confirmation from Habinteg. They are proposing a phased development of potentially 180 units over a five-year period,”
Cllr McMahon said. “The first phase will include 66 mixed social housing units. Habinteg are aiming to appoint a design team this summer to work up initial proposals for consultation.
“They hope this first phase of the development can be on site late 2019 early 2020, as they will be engaging early in the process with all stakeholders to enable planning to be submitted at the earliest opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Michaela Boyle has requested a meeting with the chief executive of the Housing Executive to discuss the social housing’crisis in Strabane town and across the district.
“In all my years as a councillor and MLA this is the worst I’ve ever seen it and deal every single day with someone in housing stress. I will be calling on the chief executive to ensure a major step change is made in terms of securing the investment needed.”
When asked what the Housing Executive plan to do to mitigate the housing crisis in Strabane, a spokesperson for the organisation said they are continually looking for new sites in and around Strabane.
“In addition to the 32 properties currently under construction and 68 properties planned to start next year, through the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP), the Housing Executive will continue to work with housing associations to identify new sites for social housing development in the Strabane area which are suitable to meet social housing need.”
Also commenting, the SDLP’s Daniel McCrossan said, “It is hugely concerning that there are 421 people on the social housing waiting list in Strabane, many of whom have little to no chance of being housed.”
He added, “I have lobbied and pressed the Department to get on with this and to invest more in building local housing stock.”