The number of households in housing stress in Northern Ireland has reached a record high, according to annual housing statistics released by the Department for Communities.
In 2016-17 there were 37,611 households on the social housing waiting list. 23,694 were in housing stress, which is a rise of 20 per cent in ten years and 82 per cent since 2002-03.
The department’s housing statistics also show the number of new dwellings started in 2016-17 was 7,727 which is ten per cent higher than the previous year and the highest number since 2010. The number of homes completed also rose to 6,467 – a 12 per cent increase continuing an upward trend.
Nicola McCrudden, Chartered Institute of Housing director for Northern Ireland said “The number of households in social housing need is at an all time high. This indicates that housing affordability is becoming an increasing problem for many families on lower incomes.”
The average weekly rent for a private rented home is £94 per week compared to a social sector home at £75.
“Housing associations are continuing to provide much needed housing. In 2016-17 they provided 1,387 new social homes in 2016-17 which is a 15 per cent increase on last year.”
Commenting on housing supply Ms McCrudden said “The ongoing recovery of housebuilding is largely being driven by the private sector and while this is welcome, particularly for those who can afford to buy new homes, we should not forget about the significant part of our population who won’t be able to get on the housing ladder.”
“Housing stress levels are highlighted in the programme for government, with the aim of reducing the gap between the number of houses we need and the number of houses we have. In the absence of devolved government is it vital that we get on with the job at hand and that is increasingly supply and providing more genuinely affordable options for housing.”
The annual housing statistics also shows a rising number of households who qualify for full assistance under the law – 11,889 in 2016-17.
“Levels of homelessness remain unacceptably high in Northern Ireland. There is a view that the private rented sector will be able to accommodate more people in housing stress, however it is critical that the sector is fit for purpose – issues such professional standards, rent affordability and better security need to be addressed urgently.”