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'Discrimination and Housing' from 'Perspectives on Discrimination and Social Work in Northern Ireland'



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Text: F. Gibson, G. Michael and D. Wilson ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

Discrimination and Housing


Key Readings

Barritt, D. and Carter, C. (1962) The Northern Ireland Problem: A Study in Group Relations. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Birrell, D. and Kennedy, S. (1978) "Housing", in Darby, J. and Williamson, A. Violence and the Social Services in Northern Ireland: Lessons of Devolution. Dublin, Gill. and Macmillan.

Brett, C.E.B. (1986) Housing a Divided Community. Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, in association with the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast.

Clarke, A. (1967) "The Colonisation of Ulster and the Rebellion of 1641 (1603-60)", in Moody, T.W. and Martin, F.X., The Course of Irish History. Dublin: Mercier Press.

Foster, R.F. (1988) Modern Ireland 1600-1972. London, Allen Lane.

Hadden, T. and Trimble, D. (1986) Northern Ireland Housing Law: The Public and Private Rented Sectors. Belfast, SLS Legal Publications (NI), Queen's University of Belfast.

Hepburn, A.C. (1983) "Employment and Religion in Belfast, 1901-195 1", in Cormack, R.J. and Osborne, R.D. (eds) Religion, Education and Employment. Belfast, Appletree Press.

Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1989) Applying for a Housing Executive Home, The Housing Selection Scheme. Belfast, NIHE.

Ogle, S. (1989) The Literature on Housing in Northern Ireland: A Critical Review of the Period Since 1970. Belfast, Policy Research Institute, Queen's University of Belfast and the University of Ulster.

PPRU Monitor (1989) Continuous Household Survey, No. 3/89.

Smith, D.J. and Chambers, G. (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Whyte, J. (1983) "How Much Discrimination Was There Under the Unionist Regime 1921-1968?" in Gallagher, T. and O'Connell, J. (eds) Contemporary Irish Studies. Manchester, Manchester University Press.


Further Readings

Cameron Commission Report (1969) Disturbances in Northern Ireland. Belfast: HMSO.

Darby, J. (1976) Conflict in Northern Ireland. Dublin, Gill and Macmillan.

Hamilton, A. (1989) "Housing, Segregation and Employment". Unpublished paper.

Murie, A. (1988) "The Social Impact of Current Legislative Proposals", Housing Review, Vol. 37, No. 1, Jan/Feb.

Poole, M.A. (1983) "The Demography of Violence", in Darby, J., The Background to the Conflict. Belfast, Appletree.

Rose, R. (1971) Governing Without Consensus: An Irish Perspective. London, Faber and Faber.

Smith, D.J. and Chambers, G. (1991) Equality and Inequality in Northern Ireland, Part 4: Public Housing. London, Policy Studies Institute.

Smith, D.J. and Chambers, G. (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Tomiinson, M. (1980) "Housing, the State and the Politics of Segregation", in O'Dowd, L., Rolston, B., and Tomlinson, M., Between Civil Rights and Civil War. Belfast, CSE Books.


Resources

Northern Ireland Housing Executive
The Housing Centre
2 Adelaide Street
Belfast BT2 8PB
Telephone: Belfast 240588

Housing Division
Department of the Environment
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
Telephone: Belfast 63210

Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations
Carlisle Memorial Centre
Clifton Street
Belfast 15
Telephone: Belfast 240446

The Federation represents the interests of housing associations to all concerned, including Government. The first two members were:
1. Fold Housing Association
3 Redburn Square
Holywood
Telephone: Belfast 428314
2.James Butcher Housing Association (NI) Ltd
Murray House
Murray Street
Belfast
Telephone: Belfast 325175

Other Housing Associations:
Shelter (Northern Ireland) Ltd
23a University Road
Belfast
Telephone: Belfast 247752


1. Definitions

1.1 Housing Council
This is a consultative and advisory body, established in 1971, which meets monthly with press present to consider reports from the Housing Executive Board and complaints from all over the Province, and to offer advice to the Minister and to the Board as appropriate. It also acts as a vehicle for the expression of public opinion.

Its membership consists of one representative from each of the Province's 26 district councils. Its recommendations must be considered by the Housing Executive and it can appeal to the Department of the Environment.

Housing Executive Board
This is a decision-making and executive body, established in 1971, which has responsibility for the management and allocation of public sector housing, new building and modernisation programmes, rehabilitation in both public and private sectors and associated services for both sectors.

The Board consists of 10 members. Seven members, including the Chairman and Vice Chairman, are appointed by the Minister responsible for Housing. The remaining three members are nominated from the Housing Council.

Organisation of the Housing Executive
The Housing Executive is organised in six regions throughout the Province. Each is headed by a Regional Director aided by an expert team responsible for the implementation of all aspects of housing policy in the area. Regional Directors report to a senior management team headed by a Chief Executive through whom representation is made to the Board. There are six main spheres of work which are represented by divisions within the Executive.

1. Information Services

2. Housing Management and Planning

3. Technical Services

4. Finance

5. Personnel and Management Services

6. Information Technology.

Regional teams include staff representatives of each division. They also provide services at the district or local level in each region.

Housing Selection Scheme
Under Article 22 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, the Housing Executive is required "to allocate dwellings in accordance with a scheme approved by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland". In principle, priority is given to those in greatest need but "there may from time to time occur exceptional situations, especially in the current troubled state of Northern Ireland, which may require special treatment outside the scope of the scheme" (NIHE (1989) Applying for a Housing Executive Home, The Housing Selection Scheme).

1.2 Homelessness
Since April 1989 under the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1988, the Housing Executive has a statutory responsibility "to secure permanent accommodation for persons who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need, to secure temporary accommodation in a variety of circumstances, and to provide advice and assistance to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness."

1.3 Housing List
A list of those persons who have applied for housing is kept by each Housing Executive District. Applicants are required to indicate one or two areas in which they would be prepared to live if offered accommodation. The list is divided into seven groups. The first four, or A Groups, are housed on a priority basis without reference to points. The remaining three, or B Groups, are required to satisfy a residential qualification and are housed on the basis of points.

A Groups are:

Al Emergency Housing
A2 Special Health and Social Needs
A3 Vesting Order, Closure, Redevelopment
A4 Key Workers and Incoming Workers

B Groups are:

B1 General Housing List
B2 Elderly Persons
B3 Elderly Persons in need of warden-supervised accommodation.
Transfers and exchanges form an important element in the work of the Executive but are handled separately from the Housing List.

1.4 Points Schedule
Points are awarded to Group B applicants in relation to particular circumstances defined in the following broad categories:

1. Degree of sharing

2. Degree of overcrowding

3. Lack of amenities and disrepair

4. Length of time on Housing List

5. Elderly points

6. Ex-service points

7. Local preference

8. Hostel dwellers

9. Under-occupation

10. Family support.

Minimum and maximum points which may be awarded in respect of these categories are explained in the Housing Executive Booklet (May 1989).

1.5 Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Association
This was established by the Housing Order (NI) 1976 and incorporated on 26 April 1977 as a company limited by guarantee. Registration, control and financing of Housing Associations is vested in the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland. Its aim is the provision of sheltered and specialist accommodation for older people and implementation of community renewal in Belfast. Tenant selection policies and rent levels are similar to those operated by the Housing Executive and a similar points system is used.

The role of the Council is to represent the Housing Association movement to all concerned including Government and Statutory Bodies, and to deal with broad policy issues.

The Council consists of 10 and not more than 16 members. The DOE (NI) and the Housing Executive each have a non-voting representative on the Council. Members may be co-opted to ensure that the Council is as fully representative as possible. It has specialist subcommittees (new building, rehabilitation, special needs) which may do likewise.


2. Historical Developments

2.1 Milestones in Housing
1885 Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes
1919 The Housing (Ireland) Act
1919 Establishment of Belfast Corporation Housing Committee and Housing Corporation
1943 Report of the Planning Advisory Board on the state of housing in Northern Ireland
1945 Establishment of the Northern Ireland Housing Trust
1956 Housing Act - local authorities assumed responsibility to deal with problem of unfit houses, and improvement grant procedures were brought into line with the U.K. It enabled Belfast Corporation to begin planning inner-city development
1962 Matthews Report provided for a building stop-line around the City of Belfast
1963 Allegations of discriminatory housing allocations in Co. Tyrone
1964 Founding of Campaign for Social Justice
1964 Establishment of Craigavon Commission
1967 Establishment of Antrim and Ballymena Commission
1968 The Caledon Affair
1969 Cameron Commission Report
1969 Establishment of the Londonderry Development Commission
1971 Housing Executive Act (Northern Ireland)
1971 Establishment of Housing Council and Housing Executive
1976 Housing (NI) Order:
- introduced statutory provision for the declaration of Housing Action Areas
- provided for the registration and financing of approved housing associations
1981 Housing (NI) Order - consolidated the Housing Executive's powers in relation to Housing Action Areas and Redevelopment
1983 Housing (NI) Order - introduced the right-to-buy scheme for Housing Executive tenants
1988 Housing (NI) Order - placed a statutory responsibility on the Housing Executive for the homeless.

2.2 Brief Historical Summary
The plantation of Ulster in the early part of the seventeenth century influenced the distribution of land and power in Northern Ireland in ways which are still evident today. The flight of the earls in 1607 left Ulster without leadership and afforded the English Government the opportunity to solve its problems in what it considered to be one of Ireland's most troublesome areas.

The ideal solution had been known for generations. It was, in a word, plantation... Land was the source of wealth and the basis of power. To take it from the Catholic Irish and give it to the Protestant immigrants would at once weaken resistance to English rule and bring into being a Protestant community sufficiently numerous, and sufficiently powerful, to keep the peace in Ireland. If the Irish would not become Protestant, then Protestants must be brought to Ireland. (Clarke 1967)
In some sense this "plantation" had already occurred. There were close contacts between Scotland and Antrim and Down. Foster (1988) indicates that these counties were already densely Scottish in population.
In many ways the Antrim Coast was closer to the Scottish mainland than to its own hinterland.

In theory, the six counties of Armagh, Coleraine, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Cavan and Donegal were to be worked on, producing an ideal pattern of close settlement that would feature urbanisation and segregation. No Irish tenants were to be allowed on the lands taken over by the major "undertakers". (Foster)

Clarke describes the ambitious and systematic plan which provided for the expulsion of many of the native Irish and the creation of a network of new, entirely Protestant communities. Arrangements were made for the renting of land in lots at easy rents for Protestant tenants who would cultivate the land and build defences for the safety of the settlement. Settlers arrived from England and the lowlands of Scotland, bringing their own traditions and ways of life. Primarily arable farmers, they built towns and villages carefully laid out as fortified frontier posts.
The changes which these numerous and socially diversified Protestant newcomers wrought in Ulster were dramatic and far-reaching. A whole new society was created, one which was not only alien to the native traditions of the area, but also different in character from every other part of Ireland. (Clarke 1967)
There were, however, insufficient numbers of settlers to enable the colony to flourish and significant numbers of Irish were permitted to remain to provide labour. Some also remained as tenants and landlords but they were disadvantaged and regarded as disloyal. So despite, for example, the Constitution of the City of Londonderry which states that Londonderry citizens were forbidden to employ the native Irish as servants "in order that the city might not in future be peopled with Irish" they were soon evident in the towns but living in their own areas. Darby (1978) believes that Belfast and many other towns at this time could best be regarded as a collection of rural villages where people stayed with those they knew, and in the areas with which they were familiar.

The second plantation, or Cromwellian settlement, in Ulster was less carefully organised. It provided rather for a transfer of power from Catholics to Protestants and it created a Protestant upper class who owned the land rather than living and working on it.

Foster explains that

what must be grasped from the early seventeenth century is the importance of the plantation idea, with its emphases on segregation and on native unreliability. These attitudes helped Ulster solidify into a different mould. The reliance of the planters upon the Irish, economically, was combined with an obsession about their religious, and therefore political untrustworthiness.
These themes of power, territory, identity and security appear repetitiously in the story of housing in Northern Ireland. The history is complex. Belfast, perhaps, provides an interesting example. By the end of the eighteenth century Belfast was a small commercial centre, largely Presbyterian in composition. Catholics made up less than 10% of the population (Hepburn, 1983). He indicates the various factors combined to make the city attractive and the consequences which followed the new wealth associated with the industrial revolution tempted more Catholics to Belfast. Land was scarce and work could be found as unskilled labourers, navvies and workers in the textile mills. By 1830 the Catholic population had risen to one-third of the city population. Skilled jobs associated with the next phase of industrial development were taken mainly by Protestants. Despite the pressures of the famine the city continued to expand but the proportion of Catholics dropped to one-quarter, a position it has largely held to this day. However competition for jobs and homes often resulted in violence, and this was concentrated in the areas where the workers congregated. Middle class families moved out to the suburbs, leaving the inner city to the workers, who lived side by side in their religious ghettos. This living pattern was reinforced every time there was trouble, as any people living isolated from their group were attacked first. Brett (1986) identifies a pattern of sectarian conflict which resulted in what is to us a painfully familiar series of outcomes such as attacks on premises, burning of homes, eviction of families in 1835, 1845, 1857, 1864, 1872, 1886, 1907, 1922-23 and 1935. He concludes "it is plain that, at any rate in the older parts of Belfast, fear - and well-justified fear - constitutes the principal reason for the segregation of housing on religious lines".

In 1885 the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes found housing conditions in Belfast and Londonderry to be among the best in the United Kingdom. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the period of high economic development was coming to an end and there followed a period "of apathy and stagnation in housing matters which was to last for half a century" (Brett).

The position in the countryside and small towns had not mirrored the growth in housing and standards in the cities. From 1883, grants could be obtained from Government by the rural district councils to build cottages for labourers. Only 634 dwellings including one lodging house were built between 1890 and 1919. (Birrell and Murie 1980) Between 1919 and 1936, 4,300 labourers' cottages were constructed in the six counties outside Belfast. None were built in Co. Fermanagh. In general, conditions were poor, the greatest deficit being the lack of running water. Birrell and Murie indicate that the reluctance of the rural authorities to take advantage of such financial arrangements as existed was related to "a restricted view of need and a preoccupation with the geography of votes". Changes in financial subsidy arrangements contributed to the neglect of public housing in the mid-1930s. Birrell and Murie (1980) suggest that the influence of the "rural agricultural landed element in the Unionist Party" may have influenced Stormont' s preference for building by private enterprise means.

By 1945 the position in England and Wales and that in Northern Ireland had diverged substantially. The damage to housing during the war led to a sense of urgency and in 1943 the housing survey of the Planning Advisory Board,

adopting minimum standards, estimated that 229,500 of the stock of 323,000 dwellings required repair. Immediate needs merited a doubling of the inter-war housing programme. A total of 200,000 dwellings were required to eliminate overcrowding and slums. (Birrell and Murie 1980)
In 1945 the Northern Ireland Housing Trust was established to work in tandem with the local authorities and the private sector to meet the need. Post-war development, however, was slow and the pattern of building in the borough and urban councils was very varied. Of the 36 urban or borough councils, the highest percentage of local authority housing was to be found in the four non-Unionist controlled councils - Ballycastle, Downpatrick, Newry and Strabane. In some areas, building was segregated and in others arranged so that electoral boundaries were not affected.
Discrimination cannot be shown to have existed in a persistent and systematic fashion, but there are sufficient examples of building decisions being based on electoral calculation and of individuals receiving preferential treatment because of their politico-religious affiliations for the discriminatory element in policy to be undeniable. And this discriminatory element carried over into the period of expanded housing activity arising from the new conversion to economic and regional planning in the 1960s. (Birrell and Murie 1980)
Long-simmering discontent came to a head in 1963 when discrimination by a Protestant-dominated council in Co. Tyrone in respect of housing allocation was alleged. Catholics believed that discrimination was widespread and 1964 saw the foundation of the Campaign for Social Justice in Northern Ireland.

The Campaign sought to place issues of discrimination before the Northern Ireland public. In this context, one case in 1968, now known as the Caledon affair, hit the headlines. Austin Currie, a Nationalist Member of Parliament at Stormont, squatted in a house to draw attention to alleged discrimination in respect of housing allocation policy. The house in Caledon, Co. Tyrone, had been allocated to a single Protestant girl while some large Catholic families remained unhoused. Civil rights marches followed together with violence and disturbance. Subsequent investigation by the Cameron Commission, established to consider and investigate "Disturbances in Northern Ireland", defined the first general cause of the disorders in 1969 in the following terms:

A rising sense of continuing injustice and grievance among large sections of the Catholic population in particular in Londonderry and Dungannon in respect of:

(i) the inadequacy of housing provision by certain local authorities;

(ii) unfair methods of allocation of houses built and let by such authorities, in particular refusals and omissions to adopt a points system and

(iii) misuse in certain areas of discretionary powers of allocation of houses in order to perpetuate Unionist control of the local authority.

The amount of actual discrimination continues to be in dispute. Rose (1971) in an empirical study found no evidence of systematic discrimination. Individual cases of blatant discrimination were found to exist in both Unionist and Nationalist Councils but it is generally agreed that it was a minority of Councils which operated in this fashion.

Following the Cameron Commission report, the establishment of a new central housing authority was agreed. Among a number of reforms for the Province the new authority would place "need" at the top of its allocation priorities and establish a readily understood allocations scheme based on a points system. These priorities were accepted by the Northern Ireland Housing Trust, and the three Development Commissions as well as the majority of councils. The Housing Executive Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 brought the new Northern Ireland Housing Executive into being in October 1971. Government expectation was that the new body would operate in such a fashion that there would be "an end to allegations about sectarian discrimination in housing allocations" (Singleton 1985).

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive was established as a "single purpose, efficient and streamlined central housing authority", and by 1973, it had taken over some 155,000 dwellings and

responsibility for the building, management and allocation of all public housing for the local authorities, the Housing Trust and the Development Commissions. (Birrell and Murie)
The context for the early work of the Housing Executive was not auspicious. The "troubles" affected its beginning work in a number of important ways. Tomlinson (1980) indicates that between 1969 and 1974 an estimated 60,000 people, or nearly one-quarter of all households in Belfast moved house. He quotes Darby (1976):
It seems doubtful that anything in the past came even close to the population movements that have taken place since 1969. In August and September of that year more than 3,500 families were forced to leave their homes, 85% of them Catholic. Two years later, during three weeks in August 1971, a further 2,069 recorded families left their homes. Between and after these two periods of exceptional violence, a less spectacular but steady flow of families abandoned their homes from fear or intimidation.., and between 8,000 and 15,000 families in the Greater Belfast area alone.
This population movement in turn had implications for the housing allocations policy. Squatting became a major issue as people sought housing in safe areas and estates became increasingly polarised. Fear and intimidation created boundary issues and territories became even more clearly defined. This then affected the so-called integrated estates where people felt vulnerable and consequently moved. The role of the paramilitary organisations in allocations was also evident. Other factors undermining the activities of the Housing Executive were the intimidation of building contractors, the sectarian basis of some trades and the rent strike. Strong feelings about territory and the underlying debate about the nature of the State strengthened opposition to new building programmes, of which the Poleglass development was a prime example. Brett (1985) himself outlines the struggle for fair policies in respect of some major issues: squatting, segregation and integration, dealing with paramilitary influence, establishment of peace lines, and allegations of imbalance in allocation of housing. He summarises his conviction thus:
I firmly believe that, in the matter of allocation and of the siting of new houses, the Executive since its inception has displayed complete impartiality; and that its work in both fields would stand up to any investigation by any fair-minded observer.
Both Birrell and Murie (1980) and Tomlinson (1980) raise the issue of the relationship of the Housing Executive to the State. Birrell and Murie see the Housing Executive as, to some extent,"overwhelmed by the politico-religious influences upon it":
Currently it is reasonable to regard the Housing Executive as an agent of the Department of the Environment with no independent view of the housing problem... Thus while there is an apparent rationality in the organisation of housing provision, some of the principal features of planning, policy making and implementations are not operated on such an inoffensive, non-political basis as is often represented.
Tomlinson (1980) goes so far as to suggest that the accommodation achieved between class relationships in sectarian territories and the consensual social democratic ideal of the British state is such that
Far from leading to a substantial improvement in working class housing, the evidence of the last decade is that British ideologies in the arena of housing have become a part of the Unionist state.
Housing in the 1980s has been dominated by the Government's increased concern with owner occupation. There has been a decline in the rented property sector, a considerable sale of council property and a rise in private homes for sale. Ogle (1989) identifies the progress in the 1970s and 1980s with most homes "now boasting what are regarded as the standard amenities". There is, however, he reported, a growing problem of disrepair, which he thought might be tackled through the creation of Housing Action Trusts. It would seem that the development of the private rented sector and the ideas associated with tenant participation and consultation form the basis of a direction in which the Housing Executive may play a changed and "enabling" rather than a primary provider role.

3. The Present Position

A picture of present housing may be obtained from the study commissioned by the Statutory Advisory Commission on Human Rights on Public Housing carried out by the Policy Studies Institute (1989).

It is important to note in considering this data that there is disagreement about some of the methodology of the study in that assumptions were made as to which applicants and which estates may be described as "Catholic" or "Protestant".

3.1 Tenure
An analysis of data from the Continuous Household Survey (CHS) 1983-85 indicates that, as found by Rose's (1968) study, a higher proportion of Catholics than Protestants live in public housing. Conversely, a higher proportion of Protestants than Catholics are owner-occupiers. This pattern is evident too when tenure is analysed by socioeconomic groups and religion.

3.2 Segregation
The CHS data appears to confirm that Protestants are more likely than Catholics to live with their own religious group. Twenty-seven per cent of Protestant households are in wards where 90% or more residents are Protestant, and 10% are in wards where 90% or more are Catholic. Seventy-four per cent of Protestant households are in wards where 70% or more residents are Protestant, and 50% are in wards where 70% or more are Catholic. The study estimates that approximately 15% of Protestants and 21% of Catholics were prepared to live in mixed estates. Segregation would appear to be greater in Belfast than elsewhere.

There is greater segregation in the public sector than in the private sector. Among Catholic households in the public sector, 37% are in wards with 90% or more Catholics, compared with 18% in owner-occupied property, and 16% in privately rented housing. There are similar though smaller differences in the case of Protestants. The researchers questioned whether this difference could be due to the fact that the public sector is weighted towards the working class, and the private sector is weighted towards the middle class. The researchers concluded that the operation of the public sector encourages in some way, not readily definable, segregation between Catholics and Protestants to a greater extent than the private sector.

3.3 Household Size and Type
The average number of people in Catholic households is greater than the average in Protestant households (3.62 and 2.52, respectively). Catholic households, however, do not tend to occupy larger accommodation - 5% of Protestant households were overcrowded, compared to 16% of Catholic households (see Table 10, no. of bedrooms). The average number of rooms per person is considerably higher for Protestants than Catholics, as shown in Table 10, and this remains true for all socioeconomic groups, and all types of tenure (see also Table 9). So, in terms of density of occupation, Protestants tend to have a higher quality of accommodation than Catholic families.

A higher proportion of Catholics than Protestants live in terraced housing (45% and 35%, respectively) and a higher proportion of Protestants than Catholics live in detached or semi-detached houses (55% and 47%, respectively). The proportions living in flats are similar. When public housing is examined separately, more Catholics than Protestants live in properties built after 1964 (55% and 43%, respectively), and more Catholics live in terraced houses than flats.

Table 9 Proportion of Catholics in ward, by socioeconomic group, religion, and tenure: all households, CHS 1983-1985 (%)

.
% of ward who are Protestant
% of ward who are Catholic
.
NIHE
Owner
Rented
NIHE
Owner
Rented
Non-manual
0-9
46
42
32
7
8
6
10-29
31
37
32
9
22
21
30-49
13
12
15
12
19
10
50-69
8
6
17
20
13
31
70-89
3
3
3
21
21
24
90-100
-
-
2
30
17
9
Base
380
1514
191
244
641
68
Skilled manual
0-9
47
35
39
1
3
-
10-29
28
30
33
9
9
10
30-49
15
16
15
10
17
16
50-69
6
13
8
19
25
26
70-89
4
5
5
23
30
37
90-100
1
-
1
38
16
11
Base
527
1027
106
405
627
62
Semi- and
unskilled manual
0-9
46
39
43
3
3
5
10-29
31
31
30
9
11
20
30-49
12
16
16
12
13
14
50-69
6
7
6
17
25
17
70-89
4
6
4
22
24
26
90-100
1
1
1
36
27
20
Base
801
413
159
691
302
66

Source: Smith, D.J. and Chambers, G. (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

In fact, when social class is held constant in this way, the tendency for public housing to be more segregated than private housing becomes more marked. Where previously these differences were clear in the case of Catholics, but very small in the case of Protestants, now clear differences are shown for both groups.


Table 10 Size of household and accommodation, by religion: CHS 1983 - 1985 (%)

Total no. of people in the household
Protestants
Catholics
1
22
16
2
29
20
3
17
15
4
18
16
5
9
14
6
4
8
7 or more
2
9
Mean no. of people in household
2.82
3.62
Mean no. of children aged
0-15 in the household
0.74
1.32
Mean no. of rooms
6.54
6.38
Mean no. of rooms per person
2.32
1.76
Base: all households
5673
3546



Table 11 Number of bedrooms compared with the bedroom standard
by religion and socioeconomic group of household: CHS 1983-1985 (%)

.
Total
Non-manual
Manual
.
Protestant
Catholic
Protestant
Catholic
Protestant
Catholic
l or more
below standard
5
16
3
11
7
18
Equal to
standard
26
32
21
28
29
34
1 above
standard
39
34
38
36
41
32
2 above
standard
25
15
31
19
21
13
3 or more
above standard
4
3
6
5
2
2
Base: all households
5573
3546
2085
953
3034
2154

Source: Smith, D.H. and Chambers, G. (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Clarendon Press.


3.4 Amenities and Quality of Accommodation
Ninety-three per cent of households have sole use of all four of the following amenities - bath, cold water, kitchen, flush toilet.

There was little difference in the perceived quality of accommodation between the two groups in terms of problems like draughts, damp, condensation, dry rot, traffic and noise. The only difference of any note was that 26% of Catholics and 20% of Protestants have trouble with damp.

Availability of local facilities appeared similar for both groups. Overall, Protestants had a small advantage.

In the public sector there was no difference in the amount of rent paid by Catholics and Protestants. There were indications, in the private sector, that Catholics paid higher rents for poorer accommodation.


4. Contemporary Issues

Several key questions require to be explored:
4.1How is discrimination defined for the purposes of housing?
4.2Has the Housing Executive been successful in removing housing policy from sectarian politics?
4.3Is public sector housing for Catholics and Protestants of the same quality?
4.4Do Catholics and Protestants have equal access to public housing?
4.5Has the public sector housing system encouraged integration, segregation, or neither?
4.6Does the pattern of segregation promote violence?
4.7 Has preoccupation with the conflict in Northern Ireland led to a neglect of other basic housing issues?


4.1 How is Discrimination Defined for the Purposes of Housing?
Current legislation on religious and political discrimination in Northern Ireland does not cover housing. Smith and Chambers (1989) took their definition from the Fair Employment Act and the Race Relations Act. The definitions are similar to those in the Sex Discrimination Order.

Direct Discrimination occurs where "on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion, a person treats one person less favourably in any circumstances than he treats or would treat any other person in those circumstances".

Indirect Discrimination is defined as "the use of a condition or requirement which is such that a considerably smaller proportion of one than of another group can comply with it, and which is to the complainant's detriment". The onus would then be on the other party to justify this condition or requirement. An example of indirect discrimination would be to introduce a residence qualification excluding people who had lived for less than 10 years in an area. This would be discriminatory if a higher proportion of one group than another had recently moved into the area.

4.2 Has the Housing Executive been Successful in Removing Housing Policy from Sectarian Politics?
It is generally agreed that the Housing Executive has been successful in this respect. Smith and Chambers' study (1989) of people's perceptions indicates that only 10% of adults thought that the Housing Executive did not give equal treatment to applications from Catholics and Protestants; only 3% of those applying to rent felt that they had been unfairly treated because of their religion. It was more common for people to think the building programme favoured one group over another (18%) and most people who thought this felt that it favoured Catholics rather than Protestants. The report does, however, call on the Housing Executive to check the effect of its policies on equality of opportunity for both the Protestant and Catholic communities.

The Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights (SACHR), in response to Smith and Chambers' findings, is

of the view that PSI's recommendation "that the NIHE should now move towards explicitly and openly monitoring the results of its policies in the light of the need to achieve equal opportunities" deserves careful consideration. (SACHR 1990)
Discussion between SACHR and NIHE has proceeded. To date, the NIHE takes the view
that systematic monitoring would create an erroneous impression that religious affiliation is part of the decision making process and that if it were required by Government to change its stance there would be hostile public reaction.
The SACHR
is in no doubt that procedures for ensuring that the way the decision making process impacts on each of the two main communities should be introduced. (SACHR 1990)

4.3 Is Public Sector Housing for Catholics and Protestants of the Same Quality?
This was the first of the three questions which Smith and Chambers sought to answer. The sources of information used were the Continuous Household Survey 1983-85; the Public Sector Maintenance Survey 1985-86; applicants registered on the waiting list at the end of 1987; and allocations made during 1987.

Two measures were used in consideration of this question - the costs involved in bringing property up to an acceptable standard of repair and the costs of improving the property to make it comparable with current new housing.

In the Belfast area, Catholic estates had a much higher incidence of repair defects though the improvement costs were comparable to those for the whole of Northern Ireland.

Table 12 Condition of public sector dwellings, by type of estate:
Belfast urban area, Public Sector Maintenance Survey 1985-1986

.
Total
Protestant
Catholic
Mixed
Mean number of
defects per dwelling
External shell and
major structure
1.105
0.940
1.729
0.670
Internal structure
and mechanical services
1.346
1.253
1.998
0.739
Defects of the basic
dwelling standard
2.567
2.499
2.844
2.361
Costs of
making good
Average repair
cost (£)
2,047
1,798
3,225
986
Average improvement
cost (£)
3,630
3,410
4,238
3,357
Base: public sector
dwellings, Belfast urban area
64,264
35,087
17,432
11,745
Unweighted
base (estimates)
3,436
1,876
932
628

Source: Smith, DJ. and Chambers, G. (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Clarendon Press, p. 351.

In the district towns, the general picture was that houses were in a better state of repair and came closer to the basic dwelling standard. The repair conditions of Protestant estates were slightly better than of Catholic estates, though the reverse was true regarding improvement conditions. In rural areas the repair conditions were comparable with those of Northern Ireland as a whole, though there was a tendency for properties to fall further below the basic dwelling standard than in the whole of Northern Ireland.

The general conclusion was that Catholic estates in the Belfast district area and the immediate surrounding area were in a worse state of repair than Protestant estates. Repair costs were found to be highest for older properties and for flats. Could it be that Catholics tended to occupy these sort of dwellings? Catholic estates were found to contain 71% houses of the terrace or bungalow type, compared with 67% for Protestant estates, and 40% of houses on Catholic estates had been built since 1971, compared with 27% on Protestant estates. This explanation, then, was obviously not valid.

In summary, however, in 1985-86, Catholic estates were in a worse state of repair than Protestant estates and repair schedules would need in future to take account of this.

4.4 Do Catholics and Protestants Have EqualAccess to Public Housing?
This was the second major question which Smith and Chambers' study addressed.

Comparisons were made between the proportion of "Catholics" (those stating a preference for a Catholic estate) on the waiting-list who were rehoused, with the proportion of "Protestants" (those stating a preference for a Protestant estate) on the waiting-list who were rehoused. In 1987, for the Belfast urban area where the greatest disparity was evident,

allocations to Protestant estates were 42% of applicants preferring such estates, compared with 23% for Catholics. This suggests an almost 2:1 disparity in the rehousing chances of those preferring Protestant and Catholic estates. (Smith and Chambers 1991)
There was a marked similarity in the same direction in respect of district towns but no disparity in the rural areas.

Could an explanation be that Protestants showed a greater need than Catholics? The points system, after all, was designed to give priority to those in need, rather than to give equality to Catholics and Protestants. Properties on Catholic estates are, however, less likely to become free for new tenants, and this may be a significant factor in allocation possibilities. In 1987 the proportion of Catholic and Protestant applicants on the A-list (priority cases who are not pointed) was the same. On the B-list with 61 or more points, the higher proportion of applicants were Catholic (28%) as compared with Protestants (17%). Therefore Catholics demonstrated a greater need for housing.

Housing congestion influences allocation, with small families with children having the best prospects. For the A-list the disparity in chances of rehousing is approximately 2:1 Protestant:Catholic for every household type both in Belfast and in the Province as a whole. For B-list applicants, Protestants have a substantially better chance in four of the six household types, the exceptions having low chances generally - large adult households and older households without children.

Another explanation might be that Catholics accept housing on mixed estates and Protestant estates in greater numbers than Protestants. This would not be supported by the evidence. In the Belfast area the proportion of allocations to mixed estates is less than the proportion of applications, so the availability of mixed estates allocations to applicants for whom they were not a first preference would be nil. Moreover, Belfast is the most segregated area of Northern Ireland with 53% of households across all tenures living in wards where at least 90% of the population are of the same religion, so it is not likely that large numbers of Catholics would be asking for mixed estates.

The most likely explanation is that the turnover of stock is greater in Protestant estates; in Belfast, Catholic allocations were 23% and Catholic estates represented 27.1% of the housing stock. Protestant allocations were 42% and Protestant estates represented 54.6% of stock. The profile of the Protestant householder is that he is older and more affluent. It could be that Protestants move out of houses in the public sector at a greater rate than Catholics, in order to purchase in the private sector or move to alternative accommodation such as an old people's home, but there is no available evidence to substantiate this suggestion.

For whatever reason, the general conclusion is that there is a clear disparity in the chances of being rehoused between those preferring Protestant and Catholic estates, in favour of the Protestant group. At the same time these results present a number of puzzling features.

(a) If Protestants are being rehoused faster than Catholics, it would seem logical that rehoused Protestants would have a lower level of points, and yet the evidence does not support this suggestion.

(b) It could also be expected that the length of time spent on waiting-lists would be shorter for Protestants since their chances of being housed are greater. Yet the evidence showed little difference, though it was based on statistics for group A and B applicants together (group A - priority cases - would be rehoused more quickly). Smith and Chambers have concluded that there is a clear disparity in the chances of being rehoused, between Protestant and Catholic, in favour of Protestants, though this is not confirmed by analysis of waiting time, and is only weakly confirmed by an analysis of the assessed housing need of those who were rehoused in 1987.

4.5 Has the Public Sector Housing System Encouraged Integration, Segregation, or Neither?
This is the third major question posed by Smith and Chambers' study. They show that there is a tendency for Catholics and Protestants to be more segregated from one another in the public sector than in the private sector. The researchers offer the following explanations:

(a) public housing could have been built in areas already defined as belonging to one group;

(b) public housing is more likely to be built as large estates, rather than as small groups of houses, and so labelling has more disastrous consequences;

(c) there are proportionally more non-manual households in the public sector, though there is not a very great differential. The study of perceptions and views showed that there was a greater preference among manual than non-manual households to be in segregated areas;

(d) NIHE do not have a policy of promoting integration. An early annual report states:

We believe that people should have a maximum freedom of choice in where they wish to live. The Executive does not believe that forced integration is any more desirable than a policy of deliberate segregation. We can only hope that the provision of an attractive mixture of housing and a change of the sociopolitical as well as the physical environment may ease the problem of polarisation. (Smith and Chambers 1991)
Such a policy means that the status quo persists and that the segregation of Protestants and Catholics becomes the norm. Singleton (1985) comments on the practices of the Executive:
Segregation of Protestant and Catholic has led to an implicit recognition of the inevitability of allocating dwellings on the basis of "two" waiting lists, one Catholic, and the other Protestant. . . The NIHE has in many instances had no option but to sort its waiting lists into Roman Catholic and Protestant and provide separate housing sites in different parts of town for the two groups.
Smith and Chambers state that they had no way of deciding how much weight to give to each of these possible explanations and so they conclude:
The findings raise the possibility that the policies and practices of the Housing Executive are a factor contributing to residential segregation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

4.6 Does the Pattern of Segregation Promote Violence?
There are wide variations in the amount of residential segregation in the Province. A study of 29 towns each with a population over 5,000 in Northern Ireland (Poole 1982, 1983, 1990) demonstrated that only eight were highly segregated. These were, in order of degree of segregation, Armagh, Lurgan, Belfast, Derry, Omagh, Newry, Kilkeel and Dungannon. Poole has also done work on areas of high violence and these towns fall within his list of eight high-violence areas. Poole suggests that the connection is not the degree of segregation but the size of the ghetto Catholic population which is the best indicator of potential violence. He suggests that where there are large Catholic majority populations a climate for violence exists. Hamilton (1989) points out that segregation is in part a response to fear and the long period of conflict may have cemented situations in ways which earlier and shorter incidents did not. The implications in terms of lack of contact, knowledge and understanding between the two communities have to be seriously addressed.

4.1 Has Preoccupation with the Conflict in Northern Ireland Led to a Neglect of Other Basic Housing Issues?
Much of the literature on housing in Northern Ireland has been preoccupied with the impact of the troubles. Differences between actual developments in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are regarded as largely superficial although slum clearance in Northern Ireland is said to be 10 years behind developments elsewhere. Key elements in the housing problem were identified by Brett (1986) as an urgent need to upgrade and modernise housing stock; to tackle deterioration in stock and to ensure that worn-out terrace housing, primitive rural cottages and inner-city block flats are replaced. Murie (1988) drew attention to the well-established demographic trends in the Province, and Ogle (1989) specified the need to attend to "the rising number of people wanting to form households of their own, the demise of the larger family and the continuing rise in the numbers of the elderly". Attention is drawn to the fact that the Housing Executive waiting-list does not match any longer the resources of the stock. In 1986 it was made up of 34% single people, 30% small families, 25% OAPs and 11% large families. These figures have considerable implications for the development of housing strategies in the 1990s.

The annual report of the Housing Executive (1990) records its preoccupation with the homelessness legislation (6,620 applications in the first year of operation, of whom 3,099 were granted Al status and 2,556 rehoused by 31 March 1990) and highlights further areas of particular need - the single homeless, long-term hostel residents, and improved contact with statutory and voluntary agencies in pursuit of the purposes of community care. The impact of People First (1990), the creation of Rural Priority Areas, and the upgrading of stock are major priorities as the Executive moves into the 1990s.

Exercises
1.1 Did the area in which you grew up have any special characteristics in respect of class or religious grouping? In what ways is the area in which you now live different from your area of origin?
1.2 How does your present living situation affect your own social and recreational activities?
1.3 How have the "troubles" affected your area in terms of population, movement or segregation?
Do you or your family discuss the religious composition of your neighbourhood?
Would changes in the religious composition of your neighbourhood influence you to move?
2.1 Do you think that the creation of the Housing Executive has ameliorated the issue of religious discrimination in housing?
What combination of features in society contribute to the maintenance of the apparent differences in access, repairs, etc.?
2.2 Have you experienced discriminatory behaviour in respect of housing in your role as social work studentlsocial worker?
2.3What issues does segregated housing raise for the delivery of an anti-discriminatory social work service?

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