This publication identified housing as one of six broad areas where inequalities exist and need to be addressed, accepting the premise that housing is a basic human need and provides the foundation for family and community life. The Commission’s 2007 Statement on Key Inequalities (pdf) highlighted "Inequalities in Housing and Communities" as a key theme for action, noting five priority issues:
Segregation in housing, including inefficient housing allocations
The lack of suitable housing for disabled people
The lack of adequate housing and/or accommodation for Travellers
Black and Minority Ethnic community, in particular migrant workers and homelessness
The document was produced in very different circumstances to those which prevail today. At that time, it was noted that we were living in ‘a time of increased economic prosperity and confidence in Northern Ireland’s future’, while observing that there were still pockets of deprivation, poverty and poor housing. Housing stress was increasing with growing numbers of people and families presenting as and being accepted as statutorily homeless and a growing ‘affordability gap’ for house purchasers.
This project, commissioned by the Equality Commission and carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the University of Ulster, outlines minimum standards of accommodation for Travellers, as defined by existing domestic and international legislation and policy commitments.
Addressing the needs of Travellers in terms of their accommodation is central to tackling the deep-seated social exclusion experienced by this diverse group. Adequate provision is imperative in facilitating access to employment opportunities, formal education, healthcare and other key services.
The role of government, both at a central and local level, and of key government agencies is critical to the provision of adequate and suitable accommodation for Travellers that meets their needs, promotes their equality of opportunity and promotes good relations among Traveller households and between Travellers and others members of a community.
The Equality Commission has found that the Department for Social Development failed to comply with a number of its Equality Scheme commitments in relation to two housing policy proposals ‘Facing the Future: Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-2017’ and ‘Building Successful Communities’.
Many people already know that the Commission is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination laws.
We publish outlines of legal cases resolved each year as the Annual Review of Decisions and Settlements. Decisions are findings of fact by the tribunals or county courts. Settlements are resolved by mutual agreement before the case goes to court.
A Belfast estate agents called Homefinders used documents in which properties for letting or sale were indicated as not being suitable for members of minority ethnic groups. The Commission contacted the company and, under the terms of Article 62 of the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, Homefinders , made an Agreement by which they undertook not to discriminate on racial grounds and stated that they will not be involved either in instructing others or in accepting inducements from others to behave in a discriminatory way. Under Article 62, if it appears to the Commission that the company has failed to comply with their undertaking, the Commission can bring the matter before the County Court for decision.
Purdon v O'Donnell
Mr. Purdon, a gay man, complained that he was evicted by his landlord from a room he rented in a house in South Belfast. He had been subjected to homophobic abuse outside the property on a number of occasions and had complained to the police about this and they offered to send an officer to talk to him and his landlord about it. When he contacted his landlord he declined to attend but subsequently sent him a text message giving him one month’s notice to vacate the room, citing risk to Mr. Purdon, other tenants and the property. He replied that the situation had calmed down and that he did not want to move. He received no response for two weeks by which time he had signed another tenancy agreement. The landlord settled the case and agreed to pay Mr. Purdon £3,500 and apologised for any injury to feelings, upset and distress suffered by Mr. Purdon. He agreed to ensure his practices and procedures conformed with the law.