An urgent increase in the construction of social housing in rural areas is needed to reduce growing waiting lists, Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy has said.
The Foyle MLA also called for a review of planning guidelines informing the construction of homes in rural areas.
Pádraig Delargy said: “Over the last year, 98 new social houses began construction in rural areas of Derry and Strabane District Council area. This represented only 5% of the social houses built in the city and district and fell well short of the Housing Executives 11% target.
“In the past the need for social housing in rural areas was often hidden due to communities being more dispersed. However, the low availability of existing social housing stock, a low turnover of existing homes and a lack of new, affordable homes has clearly exposed the issue.
“Achieving an increase in construction will undoubtedly benefit from the Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey’s proposed reforms of the Housing Executive which will allow the organisation to borrow from the market to begin the construction of new social houses for the first time in years.
“It will also be helped further if the council supports Sinn Féin’s call for our Local Development Plan to require all new private housing developments to include at least 20% of social and affordable homes.
“I am also calling on our council officers to be imaginative in their interpretation of Planning Policy 21 (PP21) which informs the construction of private dwellings in rural areas. The current interpretation of the policy has seen many planning applications for private homes turned down. This in turn has increased demand for rural social housing as applicants find themselves with little alternative due to the high cost of renting private homes in rural areas.
“I will continue to lobby the Housing Executive and council’s planning officers to ensure our rural constituents have equality of access to decent homes”