UN Rapporteur Report Calls for North Belfast Housing Inequality to be tackled

UN Special Rapporteur at the Seven Towers

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing today released the Report of her Official Mission to the UK. In the report, the Rapporteur Ms. Raquel Rolnik includes a section specifically on housing inequality that impacts the Catholic community in North Belfast, and calls for ‘concerted efforts’ to address the situation.

Ms. Rolnik states:

“In May 2009, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern that inequality in housing policy in North Belfast continued to affect the Catholic community (E/C.12/GBR/CO/5, para. 29). The Special Rapporteur recognizes the efforts of the Government to address these challenges. However, during her visit, she observed that long-standing issues related to inequality continue to require concerted efforts.”

The report’s release follows Ms. Rolnik’s visit to Belfast in September, where she met residents of Seven Towers and Harbourview in the New Lodge, and people affected by homelessness. She also met with a wide range of organisations involved in housing rights at a round-table held in UNISON offices in Belfast. She also held meetings with Department for Social Development, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Citing PPR’s Equality Can’t Wait report released in August 2013, Ms. Rolnik also draws attention to the issue of changes made in relation to housing data noting that:

“concerns about differences in the way information is collected, disaggregated and presented have been raised”

One of the ten recommendations of the report relates to North Belfast and emphasizes the importance of the participation of those directly affected in housing decisions that are made about their lives. She calls for the UK government and devolved administrations to:

“Put in place additional efforts to address challenges to overcome persistent inequalities in housing in North Belfast. For this purpose, active, free and meaningful participation of all in decisions made about housing should be promoted, including in relation to the collection of official data, that should be disaggregated, open and accessible to all”

Nicola Browne, Director (Policy) at PPR stated:

“PPR and the residents we work with welcome the Special Rapporteur’s intervention in relation to North Belfast and the chronic housing inequality that impacts the Catholic community. The human impact of the inequality is people living in substandard and cramped accomodation that impacts their health and that of their children. We would draw these comments to the attention of the Minister for Social Development, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and political representatives with the power to tackle these issues. We reiterate our call for a resourced strategy to correct the mistakes of the past, and tackle housing inequality impacting the Catholic community in North Belfast.”