By Una Murphy
HUNDREDS of international housing experts will witness a city “transformed” when they meet in Belfast later this month, according to Ulster University’s Professor Paddy Gray (pictured above).
He is the organiser of the European Network of Housing Research conference which will take place for the first time in Northern Ireland. The main sponsor of the event is the Housing Executive.
Professor Gray of Ulster University’s School of the Built Environment said: “The hundreds of housing researchers who are coming to Belfast from all over Europe will see the so called ‘peace walls’ but will also find a city transformed. They will also visit Derry and Armagh, cities steeped in history, to see how areas affected by ‘The Troubles’ have now been regenerated.
“The Housing Executive through its leading edge research and housing analysis provided the evidence base to inform and support housing regeneration initiatives to enable sustainable communities.
“Around 90 per cent of households in social housing live in separate communities in Northern Ireland but the Housing Executive has been doing great work through its community cohesion unit working alongside housing associations and organisations such as Supporting Communities, to bring down barriers and create integrated housing neighbourhoods, he said.
“The organisation still manages the vast majority of social (public) housing. As a public sector landlord its scale has been unrivalled for many years, not only within the United Kingdom, but throughout Europe, and the range of functions for which it has had responsibility is virtually unparalleled by any housing authority in any jurisdiction.
“As a strategic housing authority, the Housing Executive has embraced the opportunity of Community Planning to further change the landscape of our neighbourhoods through its place-based working approach. Place-Shaping will improve local priority outcomes through joint-planning and collaboration of delivery.
“In more recent years a vibrant and robust housing association movement has also been building high quality houses and provides a network of support services for the most vulnerable,” Professor Gray added
The conference takes place a few weeks after government responsibility for housing in Northern Ireland was moved to the newly created Department of Communities led by Minister DUP MLA Paul Girvan.
ENHR 2016 delegates will discuss housing, governance and territory. Professor Gray said these were “relevant topics given Northern Ireland’s history and unique administrative apparatus”.