For all the focus on integrated education, if communities continue to live separately then little progress will be made towards integrating our society. So developing more areas of shared housing is essential if we are to make progress.
But the lack of genuinely shared communities is only one of the housing challenges facing Northern Ireland today. There is more generally a shortage of social housing, compared with demand, leading to increasing waiting lists.
This is not simply a matter of demography. It also reflects the number of properties bought under right to buy, limiting the availability of properties. Yet many former social housing units that are now in private ownership are today let as private rental – a sector that has grown substantially in recent years. Parts of the private rental market are of poor quality, offering tenants a diminished quality of life.
Meanwhile, the Housing Executive is facing serious difficulties in meeting demand, with limited resources. Operating as part of the public sector, it has restrictions on its borrowing ability – leading to proposals for its conversion into a mutually owned body that is taken out of the public sector. If it happens it will enable improved ability to borrow against its assets to build new homes and improve the quality of its existing housing stock. But opponents describe this as privatisation of public assets.
These are the issues discussed in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast with Paddy Gray, emeritus professor of housing with Ulster University and former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing.
The Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts are funded by the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant Scheme.
Disclaimer: This project has received support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council.