The Ulster Unionist Party manifesto for the 2022 Assembly Election says: “Unfortunately, over 40,000 people in Northern Ireland are on the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) waiting list of whom 30,000 are in ‘housing stress’.

“Only approximately 2,000 social or affordable homes are being built every year, nowhere near enough to fix this growing problem.”

The claims about waiting-list and housing-stress numbers are spot on.

The claim about the number of social or affordable homes being built each year is harder to verify – but ‘around 2,000’ is not a terrible estimate.

Waiting lists

The Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2020-21 state that some 43,971 people were on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive waiting list as of 31st March 2021 – and also that, of this cohort, 30,288 applicants are in ‘housing stress’.

Someone on the waiting list is deemed under ‘housing stress’ when they have 30 or more points under the social housing selection scheme. The scoring system for those points is here.

Source: Department for Communities, 2022

What about the number of new social and affordable homes?

Built and delivered

The Department for Communities (DfC) and the Housing Executive manages the ‘construction and provision’ of social homes through the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP), with approved housing associations responsible for construction of those homes.

Under the SHDP, just 1,304 social homes were completed in the period 2020-21. This is below the short-term trend, with 1,682 social homes built in 2018-19, and 1,626 in 2019-20

Northern Ireland’s official definition of affordable housing actually includes social housing – as well as intermediate housing for rent or sale delivered through housing associations registered with DfC, such as the Co-Ownership Housing Association.

DfC was unable to provide us with figures for the number of intermediate homes built in the three years to 2020-21. Instead it produced stats for the number that were delivered, meaning homes bought on the market, which can either be new builds or pre-existing houses or flats.

DfC figures show that 1,450 intermediate homes were delivered in 2018-19, 1,144 in 2019-20 and 1,280 in 2020-21.

Each of those years has seen between 2,500 and 3,200 total social homes built and intermediate homes delivered. Given that not all those intermediate homes will have been new, the UUP’s claim that ‘around 2,000’ are built each year is unlikely to be wildly wrong.