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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 15:57 GMT
Mixed housing scheme is launched
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain visited the housing scheme
The first mixed community social housing scheme in Northern Ireland in a generation has been launched in County Fermanagh.

The 20 families on Carran Crescent outside Enniskillen have signed up to a charter for their community.

In the Good Friday Agreement, it was envisaged that people should be able to choose where they wanted to live without intimidation.

Just under 95% of NI estates are segregated on religious grounds.

Shared Future Housing is the Housing Executive's response.

The difficulty up to now has been safety and security concerns, which has been the predominant feature in the choice that people make
Paddy McIntyre
Housing Executive

In Carran Crescent, no more than 70% of any one religion will be allowed and all the residents have signed up to a charter.

After declaring the development officially open, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said society had come to accept that most people lived separately and children were educated separately.

"This division and segregation through housing, employment and in schooling has come at a high price for the whole community," he said.

"We need to change this geometry of relationships, we need to see new models of shared housing and shared schooling."

Elma Newberry, from the executive's community cohesion unit, said it has been well supported.

The executive said the pilot scheme would be evaluated and more schemes were being planned.

'Not social engineering'

Paddy McIntyre, chief executive of the Housing Executive, said other similar projects were planned.

"All research that has been carried out has shown that there is a demand from people to live in mixed community housing," he said.

"The difficulty up to now has been safety and security concerns, which has been the predominant feature in the choice that people make.

"We are not social engineering. This scheme has been allocated on the basis of the normal housing selection."

One new tenant, Michelle Johnston, said "everyone on the estate gets on so well".

"We are all mixed, we are all different religions, we get on so well and the children play together - that's the way I want to live," she said.

"I am sure the rest of the people on the estate are the same."

Elma Newberry said everyone in the estate had "signed up in principle to this neighbourhood charter".

"But it will be their charter. It will not be something that we will say 'you have to live life like this, or abide by this' - it's about how you want to live in your area and how you want to share with your neighbour and what do you want for your children?

"The neighbours here are taking the opportunity to shape their neighbourhood."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Julian Fowler reports on the new housing



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