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When everyone has a home

Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

Our history

Established in 1964 Housing Rights was originally known as Catholic Housing Aid, and then subsequently Belfast Housing Aid.  The original aim of the organisation was to help raise a deposit to buy a home for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

With the onset of the troubles we adapted to changing times and became involved in the emergency rehousing of victims of the riots.  Between 1969 and 1971 were chosen to distribute money from the Belfast Telegraph Innocent Victims Appeal Fund.

Over the years we gained expertise in housing and became recognised as the go to organisation for anyone experiencing housing problems. In recognition of the fact that we helped communities across Northern Ireland Belfast Housing Aid was renamed as Housing Rights Service (recently dropping the 'service' to be known as Housing Rights).

We are proud that from small beginnings we have grown and developed to the point where we now help thousands of individuals and families a year.   When people are homeless, worried about losing their home or living in unacceptable condition they turn to us.  As we mark 50 years of tackling homelessness and improving lives we commit to a new vision “when everyone has a home”

A snapshot of our work through the decades

The 60’s

  • As the 60’s start, a Government report showed that almost 54,000 dwellings in Northern Ireland were unfit for human habitation.
  • We establish a regular savings scheme where people can build up a deposit for a new home.  We also open a half way house in Cliftonpark Avenue where people can rent accommodation while they are saving.
  • With so many people displaced due to riots and intimidation during the troubles we begin providing advice to the public on their rehousing options.
  • By the end of the decade the number of households rehoused as a direct result of our help increased from 2 in 1964 to 387 in 1969.

The 70’s

  • In the early 70’s Direct rule is reintroduced following the collapse of the NI Assembly and over 8000 Northern Ireland families are displaced from their homes.
  • The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is established as the new authority responsible for public housing and the Rent (NI) Order is passed to improve conditions in the private rented sector.
  • The Ministry of Development choose us to distribute more than £100k to help people who had been intimidated find alternative accommodation.
  • We expand our service to deal with a wider range of housing issues such as NIHE applications, transfers, the private rented sector.  By the end of the 70’s we had dealt with around 2500 enquiries from people needing our help.

The 80’s

  • With no single authority having statutory responsibility to provide accommodation to the homeless in NI we worked hard to have homelessness legislation introduced.
  • During the decade the rate of unemployment reached a high of 16.8% and 30% of NI families were dependent on social security benefits.
  • In our busiest year of the decade we received 3700 advice enquires. We also launch our first publication “Housing Help - A directory of accommodation and services".
  • Between 1985 and 1990 the number of mortgage writs issued by the High Court increased from 1170 to 2599

The 90’s

  • In 1991 as 76,000 homes are repossessed across the UK it is no surprise that housing debt makes up the bulk of our enquiries.  We employ a full time debt counsellor so we can meet this increasing demand.
  • At its worst 23, 756 households are on NIHE’s waiting list for rehousing
  • A survey we carry out with households living in the private rented sector uncovers appalling conditions.
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly is established as we try to cope with a record 7600 enquiries.   We move to bigger premises at North Street and relaunch ourselves as “Housing Rights Service”

The Noughties

  • Many legislative changes happen in the world of housing; the common selection scheme is established, the Housing NI Order produced, The Statutory Registration Scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) implemented and The Private Tenancies NI Order introduced.
  • In a bid to help even more people we create a housing advice site for the public www.housingadviceni.org in partnership with Shelter.
  • Levels of homelessness in NI reach record levels. At its worst 20,013 households present as homeless and the total waiting list for social housing is in excess of 40,000.
  • Following the boom and bust in Northern Ireland’s housing market we experience an unprecedented 300% increase in demand for our housing debt advice service.  We launch the Preventing Possession Initiative to provide a free, in situ Court Representation Service, to people facing the imminent threat of repossession.

2010-Date

  • Between 2010 and the end of April 2014 we deal with over 146,000 housing issues on behalf of our clients.
  • As the credit crunch continues to bite, our Mortgage Debt Advice Service deals with 800 households and we make 690 High Court representations on behalf of clients facing possession proceedings.  We also launch a dedicated repossession section on www.housingadviceni.org
  • Following intense advocacy we see additional protection for the increasing numbers of people who rent privately. Increased notice periods, deposit protection and landlord registration are all welcome developments.
  • In January 2013 Nelson McCausland, the Minister for Social Development announces proposals to radically change the way social housing is delivered in Northern Ireland