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Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Housing in Belfast | Homelessness on the Up Across the UK

Right to a Home  |  Wed Nov 11 2020

Further funds for NI's Co-Ownership scheme

Following on last week's announcement of sweeping reforms to the housing sector, the Department for Communities allocated a further £145m to its "main delivery partner for affordable housing", the Co-ownership scheme. The funding will provide homes to 4,000 households over the next four years.

Tower block safety in NI

The Housing Executive is tendering for a £7.7m contract to install sprinklers in 31 of its 33 tower blocks, housing over 1,900 households. This comes amid reports that it is reassessing the safety of all of the buildings in light of consolidated guidance issued by the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the wake of the Grenfell fire inquiry.

Other Belfast developments

On 11 November Belfast City Council's Growth and Regeneration Committee considered a Housing Executive presentation on creation of a Belfast city centre waiting list.

In other developments around social housing provision, on 17 November Belfast City Council's Planning Committee will consider application LA04/2020/0804/F for development of the Monagh Bypass / Glenmona site in West Belfast - which proposes 549 social homes and 104 affordable homes.

The Planning Appeals Commission published its examination agenda, including public hearing sessions, on the draft Belfast Local Development Plan Monday 16 November –Friday 27 November 2020.

Finally, in other news, Belfast City councillors approved a motion to make the city a Racism Free Zone and set up a working group for a statue commemorating abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

England: response to limited new support for rough sleepers in ten areas

In the run up to this second lockdown in England, the homelessness sector had called for the spring's Everyone In campaign to be expanded to protect people sleeping rough during these winter months from Covid. Instead the government has announced limited extra funding to ten specific areas with particularly high numbers of homeless residents: Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cornwall, Leicester, London, Manchester, Oxford and Salford.

In response, over 70 homelessness charities wrote the government urging resumption of the 'Everyone In' scheme nationally. They pointed out that the government was decreasing its funding for the homeless, even as we enter the winter amidst rising need as people are forced to sleep rough due to job losses and evictions.

UK: evidence of increasing homelessness despite 'eviction ban'

A national study into the impact of COVID-19 on UK youth found that many young renters are in a precarious financial position, with more than two fifths of those surveyed reporting that without an income they would be able to support themselves and make rent for two months or less. The Guardian reported that, eviction ban or no, since April over 90,000 people in the UK have been threatened with homelessness, and more than half of those have already lost their homes. It carried a government official's statement that no bailiff action against renters would be taken during England's second lockdown or over Christmas.

ROI: homelessness and mental health

The Merchants Quay Ireland homelessness charity reported an increase in demand for mental health services amongst people who are homeless since the pandemic.

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