Homeless people gather at ‘future of housing’ conference  in Belfast to raise money to pay for entry. [i]

‘This conference will bring together key stakeholders with an interest or role in housing in Northern Ireland and look at how we can fulfil the need for safe, affordable housing both now and in the future.’... Housing Conference NI Statement

‘If this is about the future of housing how come can’t afford to get in?’ Seán – Homeless hostel resident for 3yrs

On Wednesday (13th March 2019) homeless people gathered outside the Titanic Conference Centre, Belfast to attempt to raise money for the costly entry fee to the NI Housing Conference[ii].

The prestigious event organised by Agenda NI to discuss the future of housing cost £195 to attend. A number of speakers were invited from government and public bodies responsible for the development of social housing policy including Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive and Louise Warde-Hunter, Deputy Secretary of the Department for Communities.

Seán, who has been waiting for a home for 16 years, from the Homeless not Voiceless Campaign said ‘we are here today to fight for the rights of people who are homeless. As homeless individuals we have been priced out of this conference. We are homeless not voiceless. We have been asking the NIHE for a meeting since December and they still have not responded to us’

Sipho, who is seeking asylum in Belfast, said ‘I was quite perturbed to find out that there was a housing conference today that we as asylum seekers cannot afford to get to. Asylum seekers are directly affected by enforced destitution and poor housing conditions, we have been asking NIHE and DfC to address these issues but have been ignored’.  

The campaigners, who could not afford the £195 entry fee, are supported by human rights organisation, Participation and the Practice of Rights. PPR contacted the organisers [iii]to request that the fee be waived to facilitate the attendance of people directly impacted by the housing crisis who wished to share their experiences, research and recommendations.

Aylisha who contacted event organisers by phone and email said;

‘We asked organisers to waive the fee and they declined. It is disappointing but indicative of how housing policy generally has excluded those impacted and failed. Today, developers, politicians, decision makers and special interest groups have more say in housing policy than 13000 children who are homeless, at least 100 asylum seekers who cannot access housing and hundreds of people living in hostels who are not recognised as homeless. That way of doing business needs to change if we are serious about tackling the housing crisis.’


[i] Tickets to the conference are priced at £195+VAT which excludes the majority of families on the waiting list and those in poor social housing who for example receive an average of £86.16 per week in housing benefit support for rent.  The entry fee alone would represent over 2 weeks average rent or over 6 weeks total income for an Asylum seeker.

[ii] The Northern Ireland Housing Conference 2019 is organised by Agenda NI, will discuss issues around homelessness and the chronic shortage of social housing. It will also discuss the impact of welfare reform. The conference organisers state that ‘this conference will bring together key stakeholders with an interest or role in housing in Northern Ireland and look at how we can fulfil the need for safe, affordable housing both now and in the future’