Housing strategy ‘reinforcing sectarianism’

The former site of the Felden training centre, which is being redeveloped to provide social housing. INNT 31-050-FP
The former site of the Felden training centre, which is being redeveloped to provide social housing. INNT 31-050-FP

Newtownabbey councillors have rounded on Clanmil Housing Association, saying its building strategy is helping to “reinforce sectarianism”.

At Monday’s monthly council meeting, representatives from Clanmil Housing Association delivered a presentation on what the organisation does and its plans for social housing across the Newtownabbey area.

The housing association, the biggest in Northern Ireland, is behind a development of 97 new homes being built in the former Felden college training site on the Mill Road.

Representatives said the development would go a long way to meet a “real need” for social housing in the area.

However, councillors hit out at the lack of building projects in other areas across the borough.

Councillor Thomas Hogg said: “The Housing Executive has identified a need for social housing in various areas, but there is a discrepancy in the amount that is being built.

“In Rathcoole, for example, there is a need for 85 homes, however, only 45 have been built. In Rush Park 50 homes are needed, but 17 built, in Glenvarna there’s a need for 65 homes yet none have been built and in Queens Park there is a need for 50 homes and again none have been built.”

He added: “Yet if we look at the Longlands and Bawnmore area, over the past two years, 30 homes were needed yet approval has been given to build 152.

“That’s five times more than what has been identified as being needed in that area alone.

“Clearly this is unfair, we need equality in the provision of social housing.”

Other councillors said that while the housing association was making the “right noises” in regards to social housing, they said “very little was actually being done”.

Alliance Councillor Lynn Frazer added: “If we do not do something now, we will still be talking about this in 30 years time.

“You talk about being keen on promoting shared housing, but really, what you are actually doing is reinforcing sectarianism.

“We need someone to take the lead on this and be more active in promoting a shared housing scheme to meet the needs of all in the borough and the Felden development represents the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Clanmil director of housing, Colette Moore, responded: “We work with the Housing Executive on where we build homes and it is up to the executive to identify social housing need.

“We are very keen to provide shared housing, but it is up to the residents to sign up to it and then only if one side of the community makes up no more than 70 per cent of residents.

“There are other important factors such as identifying and sourcing the private finance needed to build.

“But we will certainly look into the possibility of developing other sites in and around Newtownabbey.”