Shared Housing was the theme of a seminar hosted today by the Community Relations Council (CRC).
Held at the Farset International in West Belfast the seminar heard from Duncan Morrow, CRC Chief Executive, Grainia Long, Director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland, and Jennifer Hawthorne, Head of Community Cohesion Unit at the NI Housing Executive. Special guest speaker was Alex Attwood, Minister for Social Development. The seminar was chaired by Tony Kennedy, a Member of the Community Relations Council and attended by around thirty people with an interest in housing issues.
Duncan Morrow said,
‘Housing was at the beginning of the Northern Ireland conflict and it is at its end. The goal was and remains safe housing for all, available on the basis of need rather than on the basis of background or origins. Nobody is talking here about 'forced integration' in housing, whatever that might look like. The point is that freed of the threat of violence, the housing pattern in Northern Ireland would not look like the one we have inherited, and that, I believe is unassailable. ‘
‘The pattern of public housing segregation contrasts sharply with the repeated results of survey after survey that the vast majority want to live in peace together. For CRC, equality in housing provision is of critical importance. Issues of segregation must be tackled while also protecting the fundamental principle of equal access to affordable housing on the basis of need. CRC believes that the allocation of housing and the pattern of living together must also be addressed to end effective segregation in public housing and the ongoing distortion of free choice through fear.’
Minister for Social Development, Alex Attwood, said
‘I welcome the fact that the Shared Neighbourhood Programme is gathering momentum with more communities signing up to sharing and respecting their neighbours identity. I am pleased that 30 existing estates across Northern Ireland have signed up to the shared neighbourhood charter. Despite this success, there is still much more to be done.
‘Research my Department and the Housing Executive has carried out shows the paradox of living in an interface area. On the one hand residents want more sharing and less division but on the other hand, they are fearful that a reduction in security will make them less safe. This was evident at the launch of the findings in Woodvale and Shankill last week. The majority of residents wanted greater co-operation and sharing but did not want to feel unsecure in their houses.
‘The work of the Community Relations Council in helping break down the barriers that prevent communities living and sharing together is to be commended and it is by working together in our respective organisations we can help bring Northern Ireland into a shared and better future for all religions and ethnic minorities.’
For further information contact
Ray Mullan, CRC, 90-227500, email firstname.lastname@example.org