In 2007 PPR began working with residents in the Seven Towers high rise complex in North Belfast. Decades of neglect and poor maintenance have left the Seven Towers severely run down. That families continue to be housed in poor conditions in high rise housing points to the real issue – that years after the end of the conflict, housing inequality impacting Catholics in North Belfast continues to exist.

The group have achieved significant improvements in the flats complex including; the removal of pigeon waste from communal landings, the replacement of the sewage system which frequently overflowed through baths and sinks, changes in multimillon pound plans which ignored residents needs and the re-housing of the majority of families into more suitable accommodation. In 2012 they launched the ‘Equality Can’t Wait’ campaign, involving residents from across North Belfast impacted by the issue. The group are calling for a time-bound, resourced strategy to finally tackle housing inequality in North Belfast.

Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg Visits Seven Towers, North Belfast, as Part of His Visit to the UK

“The work of the Seven Towers residents, and indeed all of the groups I met today who are supported by PPR, is playing a crucial role in promoting human rights. During this era of austerity, it is even more essential for government to take targeted measures to respect, protect and fulfil human rights - particularly for the most vulnerable. This requires vulnerable groups identifying violations, accessing information and scrutinising decisions, and engaging with government. A strong culture and practice of accountability and transparency are required to do this effectively. The work of these groups is central to that core mission.” – Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (December 2011)

PPR logo

PPR responded to consultations on the planned operation of the Social Investment Fund and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s proposal to create a Belfast City Centre waiting list for social housing. As the Social Investment Fund is OFMDFM’s primary resourced policy to address inequality and objective need in some of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland, PPR expresses concern about the lack of transparent criteria by which investment will be allocated, and the failure to adhere to equality legislation that would ensure that the proposed investment reaches those in most need.

Seven Towers Balcony

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive NIHE were forced to publicly apologise after a recent response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Seven Towers Residents’ Group (STRG) revealed that specialist consultants advised the NIHE in June 2011 of their ‘serious concern over the condition of the metal surrounds to the balcony glazing units’ and recommended ‘in our opinion, it would not be unreasonable to stop people from using these balconies in due course.’

Documentary

The Seven Towers Residents Group recently gave a private showing of the new documentary film ‘papering over the cracks’ to all those who took part in making it. It is a powerful story about the campaigns to realise the rights of the residents and the resistance to change they face from government and public bodies. To view the film click 'Read more'.

Residents and UNISON Members Unite to Demand Accountability and Social Housing for North Belfast

On Friday 7th October 2011, the Seven Towers Residents Group joined with UNISON members and other concerned residents of north Belfast at the Mater hospital to demand social housing for north Belfast on the landmark 26 acre site in north Belfast. Over 50 UNISON members who live and work in north Belfast joined with the group and other residents to make their voices heard.

PPR logo

Seven Towers residents have been working with two experts in health and housing, Professors David Ormandy and Geoff Green, who have previously worked with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in England to make housing policy more efficient and effective. Together, they have started to explore how the expenditure can address long standing problems and save the public purse from additional outlays in terms of both housing maintenance and healthcare provision. In a scoping document the residents and the experts submitted to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Department for Social Development, evidence was requested about the ability of the current plans to address residents needs, whether international best practice was considered in the development of the proposal and whether the wider implications and savings to society were assessed as factors. The residents are currently analysing the NIHE’s response to the scoping document.

Budget Analysis

“Simple, clear and strong.” Ann Blyberg, Executive Director of the International Human Rights Internship Program (IHRIP) on the Seven Towers Budget Analysis Report

On 12 May 2011, Seven Towers residents publically released the findings of an official report, retrieved through a Freedom of Information request, which raises serious questions about the effectiveness of a proposed £7m scheme to erect a PVC rain screen around the high rise blocks. On the same day, residents met with housing and health experts Prof. David Ormandy and Prof. Geoff Green to discuss proposals on how to regenerate the Towers in a manner which addresses residents’ long standing housing problems. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has responded by saying they will be re-tendering the proposed £7m scheme.

The Seven Towers Residents Group Goes from Strength to Strength

Proposed £7m PVC Cladding

Highlighting the exclusion of residents from the decision to ‘clad’ the Seven Towers in PVC, in December 2010 the residents’ group, accompanied by Santa Claus, presented 115 signed post-cards for Minister for Social Development to officers from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The residents were asking the Minister to ‘halt’ the proposal until a way forward which was capable of progressing their housing rights was developed with resident participation. The residents’ action received coverage on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Ulster programme. The group continue to use Freedom of Information requests to retrieve important information on the proposed PVC cladding proposal which the Department for Social Development and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive have failed to willingly provide.

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