The Market community is in the midst of a housing crisis. Official figures released by the Housing Executive in March 2018 show that while there are over 100 homeless families on the waiting list year on year, there had only been 15 allocations in 2017. The latest Multiple Deprivation Measures place the wider area among the top 21% most deprived areas in terms of Housing, Accommodation and Living Environment. The housing figures only list individual cases seeking homes, and do not reflect the wider number of dependents – i.e. children. If taken into account the figures would increase dramatically. That an overwhelming number of residents (86%) believe that there is a ‘lack of decent and affordable housing’ in the Market is therefore unsurprising. All this points to the obvious: the Market is suffering a housing crisis.
There are over 101 homeless families in the Market. This is a travesty when one considers that there is ample land already zoned for social housing in the area. Most of this land is already in public hands. There are housing associations with the money and the will to start building. What is lacking is a political will at statutory level with both Belfast City Council and the Department for Communities.
The Market Community and its homeless families have a right to housing. We demand that all necessary steps are immediately taken to solve the homeless crisis by building homes now on the Gasworks; that all other land zoned for housing in the area is safeguarded for that purpose; and that a housing strategy is developed to ensure the long term sustainability of the community, and that this is implemented in tandem with the other Market Human Rights Indicators.
The vacant land and carparks from Cromac Street to the playpark on Stewart Street was zoned entirely for housing. Despite this, Council tried to take the whole site for office blocks, multi-storey carparks and a hotel extension – with no commitment to much needed family homes. When Council approved an office block on the Gasworks in August 2017 without agreeing a masterplan for the site – jeopardising any chance of homes – the community sprang into action and quickly organised the Homes Now campaign.
Protests, demonstrations and intensive political lobbying has been happening ever since. The community campaign has put a stop to plans to railroad a new office park in place of family homes – and is making steady progress on securing up to 80+ new houses, and many more apartments, throughout the site.