Housing shame: three empty houses for every homeless person in Dungannon

Empty homes
Empty homes

In one of the most shocking illustrations of the housing crisis hitting South Tyrone, it has been revealed that there are three empty homes in the local area for every homeless person.

While 763 Dungannon people are desperate for a roof over their heads, a total of 2478 houses in South Tyrone and Fermanagh are registered as empty, one of the highest totals in Northern Ireland.

The glut of properties mostly dot the local countryside, with many of the homes unoccupied since they were built during the housing boom, which ended in 2008.

It is believed that many of the homes are being held from sale or rental by investors and developers until the market improves.

And with fewer homes being built, there is no end in sight for the households stuck on the local Housing Executive waiting list, which currently has 1017 families in housing stress.

Of the two homeless hostels in the Mid Ulster District, one is oversubscribed, while the other is 90 percent full.

In addition, prospects for households on the Dungannon waiting list are bleaker than for people living in other parts of Northern Ireland.

The proportion of homeless people to the current number of Housing Executive properties in the district stands at 57 percent, the third highest in the North, after Newry and Bangor.

The figures were released at the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Department of Social Development after local MLA Bronwyn McGahan tabled a number of questions.

The Sinn Féin representative said that Department of Social Development needs to ensure that empty houses are brought back into the market for allocation.

Ms McGahan said: “There is a glut of housing lying empty across the district that need to be utilised and used for social housing to alleviate the growing waiting list.

“If we were to apply a bit of joined up thinking then many of these empty properties could be utilised for rehousing the many people on the homeless list.

“I am calling on all the relevant agencies to come together and begin to instigate a strategy where we can marry up the empty properties with homeless people and begin to transform the housing situation in the South Tyrone area.”

Ms McGahan added: “If the Minister has the political will the housing crisis in the Dungannon could be resolved in a very short time.”

The effect of the building boom hangover is dramatically visible in wards such as Altmore, which encompasses the townlands of Galbally, Cappagh and Killeeshil, where there are 110 empty homes, one of the highest amounts in the Mid-Ulster region.

In fact, a total of 65 percent of the district’s empty homes are situated in rural areas, according to figures released by the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The Clogher Valley, famous for its rolling hills and unspoilt countryside, has 516 empty properties. Aughnacloy has 122 abandoned homes, and Ballygawley 106.

Some of the houses are in disrepair and blighting the local landscape.

It is estimated that the vacant homes represent a combined value of £234million.

The figures do not include half-finished properties in the district or the large number of building sites with just the foundations in place dotting the countryside.