We believe that supporting and encouraging neighbourhoods where everyone in the community is valued and respected, and where diversity is celebrated is fundamental to building lasting peace and a stable society in Northern Ireland.
Segregation between the two main religious communities is a long-running issue in the political and social history of Northern Ireland and it is often seen as both a cause and effect of the ‘Troubles’. A combination of political, religious and social differences, plus the threat of inter-communal tensions and violence has led to widespread, often self-segregation of the two ‘main’ communities, particularly evidenced in working class and socially disadvantaged communities.
The extent of self-segregation grew rapidly with the outbreak of the Troubles, and in 1969, 69% of Protestants and 56 % of Catholics lived in streets where they were in their own majority. As the result of large-scale flight from mixed areas between 1969 and 1971, following outbreaks of violence, the respective proportions had by 1972 increased to 99% of Protestants and 75% of Catholics.
Analysis of 2011-based figures indicates that residential segregation in estates constructed by the Housing Executive reduced slightly between 2001 and 2011, but remained widespread. In 2011 more than 80% of households in these areas were living in segregated communities, rising to around 94% in Belfast.
Since 1998, the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey has monitored changing attitudes to equality issues and relations between the two main religious communities during periods of conflict, peace-building and devolution, and data from the 2017 Survey indicates that 78% of people, if they had a choice, would prefer to live in a mixed-religion neighbourhood.
We recognise that the concept of (housing) choice is important, and that people’s choices may depend on familial links and community connections. Therefore, the shared housing strategy is not about forcing people to live in a certain way or in a certain area, but rather to improve the choices that are available by tackling the barriers that prevent individuals from opting to live in a shared housing area.
Draft Programme for Government 2016 - 2021
The delivery of shared housing is an action in the Draft Programme for Government 2016 - 2021, and the Housing Executive, in partnership with the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Association Movement, is committed to delivering 800 shared social housing units (throughout the Programme for Government) as part of the Social Housing Development Programme.
Each shared neighbourhood is supported through the development and delivery of a five-year Good Relations Plan which is managed by the Housing Association developing the shared scheme. Advisory Groups are established to inform and support the delivery of the Good Relations Plans, and each Advisory Group draws membership from the Housing Executive, local Councils’ Good Relations Officers, local Community and Voluntary organisations, local politicians and other statutory bodies. The Plan includes ‘bonding’ programmes which are delivered to the new shared neighbourhood residents, and ‘bridging’ programmes which are delivered between the new shared residents and residents from surrounding communities.