Housing Rights Activism Through the Years

The Road to Mackie's

The campaign for social housing at the Mackie's site grew out of local people's experiences of acute housing need and a determination to find solutions. Activists who have driven the campaign have ranged from the very young to the elderly; they have included people who are homeless, people seeking asylum, people sofa-surfing, on the housing waiting list or struggling to pay private rents.

These activists have built alliances with political parties, community groups, housing associations, trade unions, human rights organisations, academics, housing and planning professionals, developers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and a range of other stakeholders. They have engaged everyone from local Councillors to United Nations bodies.

This is their journey so far...



Residents Identify Solutions to the Housing Crisis Across Belfast
'Surrounded by Land but No Space for Housing?' report cover, 2015

Equality Can't Wait activists publish a report photo-mapping available land across Belfast which could be used to tackle the Housing Crisis. The 61 acre Mackie's site features prominently in the report.


Homeless Action Charter

PPR and the Simon Community support a group of people living in hostels to launch a Homeless Action Charter. The Charter outlines concrete steps that the Department for Communities and Housing Executive could take to prioritise the rights of people experiencing homelessness.


Housing rights activists build a broad coalition to address homelessness

Equality Can't Wait activists meet a broad range of civil society organisations - including Housing Associations, trade unions, equality and human rights NGOs and political parties - to build support for social housing on the vacant sites in Belfast, including Mackie's.


Families in housing need demonstrate at the Housing Executive

'We found the land. Now build the homes!' Families on the waiting list demand the Housing Executive board develop a plan to build new houses on the photomapped sites at the board’s monthly meeting.


Christmas vigil on the Mackie's site

Elected councillors and MLAs from five political parties – Sinn Féin, SDLP, People Before Profit, Alliance, Green Party - support the campaign. Sinn Féin and People Before Profit join homeless families for a Christmas vigil at the Mackie's site to call for social housing.



Housing Rights Activists Push for Parliamentary Inquiry

Families and activists push for an investigation into unaddressed religious inequality in housing and secure the support of a majority of MLAs. Despite this support, the matter is not tabled to be raised by any of the parties at successive Executive meetings.


Housing on Hillvew campaign begins

Activists leaflet, collect petitions and mobilise the local community and businesses to push for social homes on the 11 acre privately owned Hillview/Dunnes site in north Belfast.


Identfying New Sources of Funding for Social Housing

PPR commissions renowned economist Paul Gosling to research the use of public authority pension funds to finance new build social housing. The report finds that the main obstacle is neither land nor money, but political will.


Equality Can't Wait Mural Launch

Equality Can't Wait activists begin the tactic of using street murals to call on politicians to use their powers to build social housing.



Families take the Housing Executive to Court

Living in a hostel and unsuitable high-rise accommodation for over a decade, Equality Can't Wait activist Elinor Mulligan, litigates against the state for repeatedly failing to fulfil its human rights obligations.


Belfast City Council Passes Motion on the Housing Crisis

A range of parties - People Before Profit, Sinn Féin, Alliance, SDLP and Progressive Unionist Party - support a motion proposed by PPR, calling on councillors and officials to use planning powers to tackle the housing crisis.


Housing and Accommodation Rights: Lessons from the Grassroots

PPR hosts an international conference in Belfast, pulling together a wide variety of social justive movements including New Jersey Together (USA), Reclaim the City (South Africa), Edinburgh Tenants Federation (Scotland), the Irish Housing Network and the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. The workshops share tactics and strategies for advancing housing rights in different political and economic contexts.


Belfast City Council Approves Hillview Plan Excluding Housing

Despite local opposition, in a tense vote attended by families and activists, Belfast City Council's planning committee approves an application for retail and commercial development only on the contested Hillview site.



Never Again: A public hearing on tower block safety

In the wake of the horrific Grenfell tragedy, residents of the Seven Towers in north Belfast hold a public hearing investigating their long-standing concerns about PVC cladding and call on officials to address health and safety risks.


Famlies and children stage direct action at Housing Executive offices

Children and young people affected by the housing crisis speak truth to power and submit colletive complaints to the Housing Executive, Belfast City Council and Department for Communities. Familes demand authorities use their powers to turn empty unused land into social housing for the 12,000 families waiting for a home in Belfast.


“Waiting on a Childhood” Video Launch

Public authorities and supporters attend the launch of young activists' video on their right to housing and their experiences growing up in families coping with homelessness and housing stress. At the time, there were over 15,000 children officially recognised as homeless in Northern Ireland and the Executive only built 1,507 homes the previous year.


UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty visits Belfast

People campaigning for housing rights meet with the Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and take him on a walking tour of local areas in Belfast to see the issues they face firsthand.


Housing campaign posters on the street in Belfast

Politicians from Sinn Féin, SDLP, People Before Profit, Alliance Party and Green Party take part in a public advertising campaign raising awareness of the need to take urgent action to address homelessness.



'A Prison without Walls: asylum, migration and human rights'

Asylum seekers and refugees from the Housing4All group present findings from their action research amongst 70 asylum seekers in Belfast in late 2018, concerning destitution, housing conditions, poverty, mental health and related issues.


'Homeless Not Voiceless' campaign launch

To coincide with the new Spiderman film release, a group of long-term homeless hostel residents, who have been denied homeless status by the Housing Executive, stage a superhero intervention and submit their research amongst 100 residents of homeless hostels to housing chiefs. Their campaign #FDAnoDelay received official support from 5 local councils.


Young #BuildHomesNow campaigners present their case for more social homes to Belfast City Councillors

Young activists stage a series of meetings with Councillors, address a full Council session and stage protests outside City Hall in an attempt to get Councillors to use their planning powers more assertively to address the housing crisis.


Mackie's Planning residential for young housing activists and families

Working alongisde urban planning students from Queen's University Belfast, young activists develop their vision for the community they would like to see at the Mackie's site and develop initial plans to realise their vision.


#BuildHomesNow Mural Launch

Belfast's Lord Mayor John Finucane joins young #BuildHomesNow housing activists to launch their mural at Belfast's iconic 'International Wall' to call for more social housing across the city, specifically at Mackie's.


‘Abomination of a Consultation’

To protest both the exclusion of homeless families from development plans at Mackie's, and the failure to build new homes, young #BuildHomesNow activists work with Belfast's Grime Man and provide back-up vocals for his 'Abomination of a Consultation' track.



An alternative for Mackie's is possible!

Seedbombing families, campaigners and supporters stage a tour of the Mackie's site and decision makers' buildings to show what a sustainable use of the 20+ acre site could look like.


Take Back the City webinars on Mackie's

Under Covid-19 lockdown restrictions Take Back the City campaigners bring together 50 professionals, supporters and experts across each of four key areas: finance, architecture, sustainability and planning, to discuss the potential for social housing at Mackie's.


Ending the Hostile Environment

Housing4All, Movement of Asylum Seeekers in Ireland, Committee on the Administration of Justine, Scottish Refugee Council & University College Dublin make presentations to 80+ attendess on the right to work for asylum seekers in the north of Ireland.


Take Back the City meet housing Minister

Seventeen organisations from the Take Back the City network write to the Housing Minister asking for a moratorium on her department's plans for Mackie's until sustainable social housing options had been considered - including a full equality assessment. Campaigners followed up letter with an online meeting with the Minister.


Ending Homelessness Webinar Series

PPR host an information exchange between 160+ participants and 10 speakers from different homelessness organisations across three webinars. The former UN Special Rapporteur on Housing Leilani Farha, Professor of Law at Queens, Colin Harvey and Irish academic and author Rory Hearne take part.



Locked Down and Cut Off Report

Research carried out among 140 young people living in homeless hostels during the pandemic is published. The report examines the digital divide in Northern Ireland, looking closely at young people's employment, mental health, accommodation and the impact that the failure to access the internet has on their lives. The report concludes that 'those with little or no access and resources have taken the lead in developing practical solutions to close the digital divide. Yet, those with the power and responsibility to ensure that all residents have good digital access, have been found to be severely lacking in their response, both in speed and scale.'


West Belfast Residents Mobilise!

A 5-year campaign by residents of the 32-unit Bleach Green supported housing complex in West Belfast – including a petition, surveys, letters and press coverage - pressured senior management of their housing association into significant repairs and giving backpay for faulty heating.


The Status Quo is Not an Option!

The Minister for Infrastructure, CEO of the Housing Executive and senior Belfast City Council staff contribute to this event, attended by 72 people, to discuss the potential for housing in 'contested spaces' like the Mackie's site. The event was followed by workshops and a survey with public authorities and community workers in OCT.


Take Back the City Join forces with The Mac Belfast

The 'MACtivate' programme, sponosred by The MAC in Belfast, brings the message on the right to housing in Belfast to a much wider audience. The MAC provides space and resources for PPR activists to display a Build Homes Now exhibition - visited by more than 5,000 people, alongside artist Anne Tallentire's 'But this material....' exhibition.


Take Back the City at the Belfast Film Festival

#BuildHomesNow campaigners, in conjunction with Anaka Women’s Collective and Belfast Film Festival, produce and screen ‘Home / Baile / مسكن’ - a film about homelessness, the importance of home and how to bridge the gap between the two.


Moving Beyond the Status Quo

The Take Back the City coalition launch the innovative interactive mapping tool ‘The State of Belfast’ - developed by rabble.coop with support from Queen's University Belfast - at an online conference attended by 75 people.



Family launches judicial review of Belfast City Council's decision on Mackie's

The High Court in Belfast grants leave for a judicial review of Belfast City Council's decision to sideline housing rights at the Mackie's site, after a legal action crowd funded by the people of Belfast and led by a brave family in housing need.


Build it Now: Sustainability and Mackie's

Each week PPR, Grow NI and the #BuildHomesNow group support the women and children of Moving Up Moving On (Forthspring Inter-Community Centre) - adjacent to the Mackie’s site - to create their own outdoor garden space for their community activities.


Assembly Elections 2022

Candidates' stance on key human rights issues -- including housing at the Mackie's site -- features on our interactive online map at www.TakeBackTheCity.ie.


City of the Future Event

The two-day event, hosted at Mackie's Innovation Factory, attracts over 200 people including representatives from some of the 15+ architecture firms that submitted final designs to the design competition for an inclusive and sustainable community at Mackie's.


Homes not Hotels!

Months of organising and powermapping with asylum seeking families living in contingency accommodation in hotels culminates in preparations for a meeting with local and UK duty bearers in October.


City of the Future Design Competition

100+ people - local families, architects, students, housing campaigners, journalists and more - attend the launch at The MAC gallery of the 11 shortlisted designs for an inclusive, sustainable community at the Mackie's site. All the entries to the children's art competition are showcased as well.


Forthspring Inter-Community Centre Public Consultation Event

Participants view architects' designs close-up on presentation boards for each submission and provide feedback

Take Back the City logo The Take Back the City coalition was formed in 2020 to develop sustainable solutions to Belfast’s housing crisis. We are families in housing need supported by experts in architecture, urban planning, housing policy, technology, communications, permaculture, human rights and equality.
Supported by
Oak Foundation logo PPR logo Queens University Belfast logo Town and Country Planning Association logo