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Addressing the Homelessness & Housing Crisis – A call to our new Executive.

29 February 2024


Jim Dennison, Simon Community CEO

After two years of political deadlock, this week sees the return to Stormont. Here at Simon Community, we strongly welcome this development, but we also know our new Executive has a great deal of work to do.

Every day, frontline Simon Community teams see the devastating impact the last two years has had on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Northern Ireland is experiencing a housing and homelessness crisis. A record number of households are on NI’s social housing waiting list, three quarters of whom are deemed to be in housing stress or acute housing need. Of these, a staggering 26,000 households are legally classified as homeless, including 4,500 children.

The whole system is under immense and unsustainable pressure.

The political stalemate, coupled with outdated emergency measures put in place during the pandemic, mean that in 2024 we have a short-sighted housing policy. We also have a budget that is not being strategically deployed.

We know homelessness is not just a housing issue. It's a multifaceted series of complex life experiences that culminate in people having nowhere to live. It’s caused by poverty, poor mental health, addiction, low educational attainment, lack of job opportunities and domestic violence.

And because homelessness is a multifaceted issue, it requires a coordinated approach. It needs a joined-up government intervention through the Departments of Communities, Health, Justice, Infrastructure and Finance.

Homelessness now costs hundreds of millions of pounds each year and economic forecasts predict it will only get worse.

Now is the time for our new Executive to work differently. We must take a new approach. As our Assembly gets up and running, Simon Community is calling on our political leaders to do the following:

  • Start a serious conversation about housing. We ask our Executive to immediately address the chronic under-resourcing of housing provision. We urgently seek their commitment to deliver a fully resourced and ambitious housing supply strategy for Northern Ireland.
  • Undertake a comprehensive spending review of the homelessness and emergency housing budgets. Only through strategic and forward-thinking investment decisions can we maximise impact for those experiencing – or at risk of – homelessness, both now and in the future.
  • Support the charitable sector with adequate funding. Many charities, including Simon Community, have to raise private funds to safeguard the delivery of statutory emergency accommodation services. This is unsustainable and will result in the closure of vital services across NI.

We need our political leaders to make housing and homelessness a priority for the upcoming Assembly. If they don’t, this crisis will become a catastrophe.

We must do things differently.

Now is the time to begin.