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28/04/2016

DUP focuses on creating stronger communities

ARLENE FOSTER

In its 2016 manifesto, the Democratic Unionist Party has committed to delivering 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020 and establishing funds aimed at tackling energy efficiency, renewables, telecommunications networks and urban regeneration in Northern Ireland.

Our Plan For Northern Ireland also places emphasis on creating stronger communities through investment in town centres and giving the Northern Ireland Housing Executive additional powers to tackle empty homes.

The assembly election will take place on 5 May 2016.

Housing

 

In view of families and young people who have struggled to get onto the property ladder in the face of economic downturn, the DUP says that it would continue to support Northern Ireland’s Co-Ownership Housing Scheme and support the purchase of 3,000 new affordable homes over the next three years.

The DUP also commits to boosting investment in new social and affordable housing, pledging to deliver another 8,000 social and affordable housing units by 2020. Community Land Trusts are also proffered as a long-term solution to the issue of affordable housing and to assist in community regeneration, with housing land being placed in trust and thus removed from the cost of a home. The DUP commits to introducing such schemes in different hotspots across NI.

The party believes that if the future of town centres is to be secured they must become places where people want to live, and not just shop. It is pledging to reintroduce the ‘Living Over the Shop’ scheme to assist landlords in converting space above shops into residential accommodation.

A new bulk-renting scheme would be created from combines of private landlord properties, according to the manifesto, with the aim of driving up standards in the private landlord sector.

Planning

 

In its manifesto, the DUP pledges support for the transformation of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to a strategic housing body. It urges that this should include the “transfer of its stock to fully utilise assets to make social housing more self-financing”. The NIHE should also receive additional powers to tackle the issue of empty homes.

The party also supports the Department of Finance and Personnel’s (DFP) Infrastructure Action Plan, which would see the DFP designated as the sole delivery department for all infrastructure projects with the exception of specialist areas such as water, roads and transport. This, the manifesto suggests, would allow the executive to benefit from economies of scale, consistency in how projects are delivered, and a reduction in delivery time.

The manifesto also calls for better management of publicly owned land. It suggests there should be an examination into how NI’s Asset Management Unit could be enhanced to make the management and disposal of land simpler and more efficient, with an ultimate aim to explore the potential of creating a single entity akin to a Public Wealth Fund to “effectively and efficiently” manage all central government owned land and assets in Northern Ireland.

Natural Environment

 

Following the merger of the Department of Agriculture and Department of the Environment, the DUP says it would create an environmental advisory division within the new department to help improve the natural environment. It hopes to see Northern Ireland Environment Agency prosperity agreements rolled out to the wider economy to reduce environmental impacts and create “prosperity and wellbeing”.

The party also promises to develop a Greenway Network across Northern Ireland, providing traffic free space to walkers and cyclists for leisure and commuting.

Furthermore, the party aims to increase carbon sequestration, using public assets to plant more woodland, and creating greater incentives for farmers to plant marginal land in trees to reduce flooding.

Funding

 

The DUP has pledged to “press ahead” with its aim of establishing a £1 billion Northern Ireland Investment Fund, which would use Financial Transactions Capital and draw on private sector support to help finance projects for social and affordable housing, energy efficiency and renewables, telecommunications networks and urban regeneration.

It would also “examine the scope” for a Town Centre Regeneration Challenge Fund for which local councils and Chambers of Trade could bid to help deliver a range of projects to improve their social and physical infrastructure.

Transport

 

The DUP vows to continue the success of the Department for Regional Development in steadily improving NI public transport, and supports key schemes including the Belfast Rapid Transit Scheme and the development of an integrated bus and rail ticketing system similar to London’s Oyster Card.

The party calls for continued investment in new and improved road networks, and has pledged support for a number of works on connections between key towns and cities.

Energy

 

The party has committed to fully implementing the Energywise Scheme in Northern Ireland to help “improve the energy efficiency of homes and tackle fuel poverty”, and would also seek for NI to be included into Westminster’s Warm Homes Discount Scheme.

It also pledges to carry out a “fundamental review” of energy policy to ensure that Northern Ireland has a secure energy supply “that moves ever closer to the EU median price”, and would include an assessment of cost-efficient renewables development.


Our Plan for Northern Ireland can be found here.


The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has pledged to introduce greater targets on turnaround times for planning applications considered ‘economically significant’ in its election manifesto. More on this can be read here.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) is resolved to combat the segregation of communities in Northern Ireland by establishing a shared housing task force to promote greater diversity in housing. More details can be found here.

Sinn Féin commits to spending £6 billion to improve infrastructure and vows to build 10,000 new homes in its manifesto. Full details can be found here.


PICTURE CREIT | KEVIN FOSTER/PRESS EYE

 

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