WEST Belfast has the lowest number of homes registered as being empty in the North, latest figures have revealed.

In response to Assembly Questions, the Department of Finance revealed there are currently 20,068 houses registered as being empty in the North.

The actual figure could be much higher given there is no requirement for owners to register their properties as empty.

In West Belfast, there are 683 empty homes, compared to East Belfast (839), North Belfast (885) and South Belfast (1,307).

The highest number of empty homes is in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (2,084).

The SDLP said it is shameful that properties are lying empty while families wait for a home.

As of June this year 3,992 applicants were on social housing waiting lists across West Belfast with 3,167 in housing stress.

SDLP West Belfast rep Paul Doherty said: “That 683 homes remain vacant throughout West Belfast is shocking, but taken in the context of the growing numbers on social housing waiting lists the figure is utterly shameful.

“While the pandemic has contributed significantly to the pressures placed on the system, the housing crisis has long predated Covid-19. There is no excuse for the failure to get to grips with this known issue and one which the SDLP has raised consistently over the past five years."

In North Belfast, as of June this year 4,457 applicants were on social housing waiting lists with 3,321 in housing stress. 133 new social homes were built across North Belfast in 2020/21. 

A spokesperson for housing rights group, Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR) said: “We have more than enough land and property to solve the housing crisis – but it can’t be done without the political will to change the system which is set up to benefit landlords and developers.”