Strong communities are at the heart of a renewed Northern Ireland. We want people to live and work in communities that are rejuvenated and revitalised and which engender a sense of pride.
Over the past 5 years, especially through our stewardship of the Department for Social Development, the Democratic Unionist Party has ensured ongoing investment and support directed towards strengthening our communities. Investment has been focused on improving housing, supporting our town centres and high streets and tackling disadvantage. For example
- between 2011 and 2015, £400million was invested, alongside £315million of private finance, in providing social and affordable housing across Northern Ireland. Over 8,500 new social and affordable homes have been constructed over the period;
- by end of March 2016, £70m will be committed under the Social Investment Fund, for the first time benefiting churches, Orange Halls and many new areas not included under traditional DSD schemes;
- hundreds of new social enterprises created under the Social Enterprise Hub project;
- tackling Fuel Poverty through Boiler Replacement and Warm Home schemes.
- we have introduced legislation permitting the creation of Business Improvement Districts with pilot schemes commencing in seven areas including Ballymena, Belfast and Newry;
- tens of millions of pounds has been invested in new public realm schemes to improve streetscapes in places like Bangor, Newtownards, Cookstown, Dungannon and Larne;
- enabled Community Asset Transfer where Third Sector organisations such as voluntary and community sector groups, faith based organisations and social enterprises can use surplus public sector assets to regenerate communities;
- negotiated extra safeguards and support for benefit claimants in NI providing the best system in the UK.
- This work of investing in our communities and neighbourhoods must continue. This is our Plan to create stronger communities.
1. INCREASING INVESTMENT IN NEW SOCIAL & AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The case for investment in social housing is an unarguable one. House building has a hugely positive impact upon the local economy, creating and sustaining jobs not just in the construction sector, but also in professional services and retail. A safe, secure and warm home also produces health and educational benefits. The DUP commits to delivering a further 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020.
2. A TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION CHALLENGE FUND
We will examine the scope for the introduction of a Town Centre Regeneration Challenge Fund which local Councils, Chambers of Trade and others could bid for annually to help them develop a range of projects in their towns or high streets to improve their social andphysical infrastructure. This would complement our commitment to public realm works.
3. REINTRODUCE A ‘LIVING OVER THE SHOPS’ SCHEME
The future of our town centres does not depend solely upon enhancing their retail offering. Town centres must become places where people do more than shop. They must become places where people live as well. We will further develop the work already started to reintroduce the previously successful ‘Living Over the Shop’ scheme where landlords were assisted in converting space above shops or offices into residential accommodation.
4. COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS FOR AFFORDABLE HOMES
Community Land Trusts are a long-term solution to the issue of affordability and assist in community regeneration. Land prices are a key component in driving up property prices. This model places the land in trust and thus removes it from the cost of the home. Future selling prices are linked to a multiple of local incomes which allows the owner to see appreciation of their investment but still maintaining any re-sale price at an accessible level. The DUP will introduce schemes in different property hot spots across Northern Ireland.
5. RE-BIRTH OF THE NORTHERN IRELAND HOUSING EXECUTIVE (NIHE)
The DUP supports the transformation of the NIHE to a strategic housing body. This should include the transfer of its stock to fully utilise assets to make social housing more self-financing. In addition, the NIHE would receive additional powers to tackle the issue of empty homes.
6. ENERGYWISE AND WARM HOMES
The DUP is committed to the full implementation of the Energywise Scheme in Northern Ireland to help improve the energy efficiency of homes and tackle fuel poverty. Furthermore, it will fight for NI to be included into Westminster’s Warm Homes Discount Scheme.
7. BULK BUYING FROM PRIVATE SECTOR LANDLORDS
The DUP wants to drive up standards in the private landlord sector. It will introduce a bulk-renting scheme from combines of private landlord properties. In return for a guarantee of income the properties entered into the scheme must be equipped and maintained to higher standards.
The growth of on street homelessness is of grave concern. This problem persists even when there is adequate hostel and other provision. This is a result of the complex needs and difficulties of those who find themselves in this situation. The DUP will bring and co-ordinate all public agencies to provide the breadth and depth of support these people need.