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Key Inequalities in

Housing and Communities

What you need to know

Real stories

Key Inequalities in Housing and Communities

The Equality Commission's ‘Statement on Key Inequalities in Housing and Communities in Northern Ireland’ highlights our assessment of inequalities and differences in housing experiences faced by equality groups across the Section 75 equality categories in Northern Ireland.

It reports key differences in the equality outcomes, and where possible the barriers, faced by equality groups in NI, for the period 2007 to 2015. For each equality ground, inequalities and observed differences are set out under three broad headings:
  • The accessibility of housing - the opportunities to secure housing
  • The adequacy of housing - the housing meets cultural, physical or other needs and is safe
  • The sustainability of housing - the tenure is secure and affordable in the long term


The provision of housing faces new as well as existing and persistent challenges.  Seven key inequalities were identified:

Catholic household reference person applicants continue to experience longest waiting times for social housing

Housing waiting timesAn examination of Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) waiting list time data for social housing for the period 2004 to 2009 and for 2013/14 shows that Catholic household reference person applicants experienced the longest median waiting times for social housing at the point of allocation in Northern Ireland as a whole. Further, while median waiting times had increased for all groups, more substantive increases were noted for households with a ‘Catholic’ or ‘Other’ religion household reference person.


Access to appropriate accommodation for Irish Travellers is limited

Irish Travellers infographicWhilst the NIHE Traveller Needs Assessment (2015)2 identified three council areas in 2014 that presented the most need for Traveller accommodation, the planning data supplied by the NIHE shows that, of the eight applications lodged between 2007 and 2015, none were in two (Belfast or Dungannon) of the three areas of identified need. A total of six of the eight applications were however in one of the areas of most need - the Craigavon area.


The homes of minority ethnic people and migrant groups may be vulnerable to racial attacks

Racist attacks infographicNorthern Ireland Police Recorded Crime Statistics (2014)28 show that while the number of ‘criminal damage to a dwelling crimes’ that had a racist motivation experienced a year on year decrease between 2008/09 and 2012/13, the most recent data (from 2013/14 to 2015/16) showed an increased number of incidences of criminal damage compared to 2012/13.29


Migrant workers are vulnerable to becoming subject to tied accommodation* with poor conditions and overcrowding

Over crowding infographicIn 2011, Allamby et al. reported that for migrant workers in Northern Ireland, ‘work and accommodation are often linked, [where] many cannot leave their job as this would also render them homeless, creating a vicious circle of working long hours and living in poor conditions’. This accommodation can also be expensive, overcrowded, excessively controlled by landlords, and unsuitable for children.


Those with a learning disability are not always afforded an opportunity to live independently

Learning disability infographicThe Bamford Review (2007) found that whilst the resettlement of people with learning disabilities and mental health problems away from hospital settings and into the community had taken place many people were resettled in similar institutional shared settings. Byrne et al., (2014) reported that the Bamford Action Plan 2012-2015, which included a commitment to resettle long-stay patients not in need of treatment, was to be completed by 2015. In January 2016, DSD advised that the resettlement programme was still ongoing but nearing completion. As of March 2017, the Commission has been unable to confirm if the resettlement programme has completed.


Many people with disabilities live in homes that are not adequate to meet their disability related needs

Disability infographicThe Northern Ireland Survey of Activity Limitation and Disability (NISALD), conducted in 2006/07, found that nearly a fifth of those respondents who did not have adaptations to their homes did have a requirement for modifications or adaptations. The ‘Lifetime Homes’ standards do not apply to the private sector. Further, specific wheelchair standards have been called for as existing standards are not considered to be adequate.


Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) people can feel harassed and unsafe in their own homes and neighbourhoods

LGB housing infographicResearch suggests that a fifth of homophobic incidents occur in the LGB person’s home; and that nearly a quarter of incidents involved a perpetrator who was a neighbour or lived locally. PSNI crime statistics show increased year-on-year ‘Violence against the person offences’ between 2007/08 and 2013/14.


We hope that the consideration of differences, inequalities and barriers set out within this Statement, will be utilised to inform the ongoing development of policy positions and associated interventions not only across the relevant Departments, agencies and functions of government, but by all those organisations who have responsibilities for, or an interest in, housing in Northern Ireland.

Statement on Key Inequalities in Housing & Communities in NI (April 2017):


Commissioned research by the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York:
Related information:
          Key Inequalities logo



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Real Stories - Key Inequalities in Housing and Communities in Northern Ireland

Suitable housing, which is such a basic foundation for all our lives, remains only an aspiration for some people in Northern Ireland. This might surprise some people, because housing inequalities rarely make it to the news headlines or the front pages of our daily papers.

The real life stories which follow tell us about personal experiences, good and bad, of finding and keeping a home. Great strides have been made in public housing provision in Northern Ireland over the past decades, and some of these stories show how imaginative and caring public policies can help people, with spirit and courage, to overcome the difficulties and challenges life has faced them with.

Others reflect the experiences of people who have had to struggle with housing issues for many years. They make for stark reading but they must not be ignored.Their continuing struggles challenge us all.

These stories show that for some, life-altering change has been possible, while for others it remains out of reach. I thank all contributors sincerely for their willingness to share their experiences, both positive and negative.

Bryan and Warren's story
Successfully addressing a key inequality: how enabling people with a learning disability to live independently can transform lives and address inequality.

          Bryan and Warren video
Shauna video  

Shauna's story
Shauna’s story demonstrates the personal impact of social housing waiting times on people seeking homes in particular areas. It’s just one of the stories that lie behind the statistics of housing waiting lists.

Ahmed's story
An example of how the homes of minority ethnic people can be vulnerable to racial attacks and the severe impact this can have on someone’s life.

  Ahmed video
Hilary video  

Hilary's story
Successfully addressing a key inequality: how the life of someone with a disability has been transformed through access to housing and support that meets her personal needs.

Vincent and David's story
An example of how LGB people can feel harassed and unsafe in their own homes and neighbourhoods.

  Vincent and David video

All of the above stories feature in the Equalty Commission's publication "This place we call home?(pdf, 1.6mb)

Housing Key Inequalities

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