The 19th and early twentieth century saw the development of thousands of small terraced houses across Belfast. These accommodated mill, ship building, engineering and other workers who had come to the city from rural areas. Those who came to Belfast for work were from both the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities.
Some of this housing was built adjacent to the lower stretch of the Oldpark Road, close to the linen mills of the Crumlin and Shankill roads in North Belfast. This mainly housed people from the Protestant community.
The many rows of small terraced houses in the lower part of the Oldpark Road served generations of families. However, by the latter part of the twentieth century, these properties needed to be replaced with new homes offering modern facilities.
In the Lower Oldpark area of Greater Shankill in Belfast, a process of housing redevelopment began in the early 1980's. Many hundreds of old terraced houses were demolished and replaced by modern houses, flats and bungalows with gardens front and rear.
This new public housing (now social housing) was developed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) for letting to households on the waiting list. There was also a small number of social homes, in the form of flats, developed by a housing association (currently known as Radius Housing). A sheltered housing complex was provided by the British Legion Housing Association (now Clanmil Housing) at the junction of Oldpark Road and Manor Street.
While some of the occupants of the new houses were residents of the old neighbourhood, many of the latter were displaced to other parts of Belfast and beyond during the redevelopment process. This helped to weaken the social fabric of the community.
During the mid- 1980's, civil disturbances linked to the Northern Ireland 'Troubles' increased in the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood. This resulted in the building of a peace wall between the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood and adjoining Roman Catholic neighbourhoods. This peace wall remains in place today,
The period from the mid 1980's to 2010 was one of out-migration of many families from the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood, leaving blocked-up, vacant and decaying properties. People moved away because of intimidation, the local security situation and a deteriorating environment.
There were some improvements during the period. These involved the refurbishment of 11 vacant and decaying NIHE properties and the development of eight new build houses by a housing association (now Radius Housing).
However, little else was done by public bodies to regenerate the neighbourhood. Many residents were living in a dreadful environment and the neighbourhood inevitably became more unpopular and the homes more difficult to let.
The main response from public bodies was to demolish some blocks of vacant and decaying properties. This led to the creation of large green spaces adjacent to the peace walls. Regular interface conflict and high levels of anti-social behavior promoted further decay and out migration.
From 2010, the Northern Ireland Government began to give more attention to the need for major housing and physical regeneration in the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood. Funding was made available from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for Lower Oldpark Community Association to employ a Housing Project Worker to support local housing regeneration.
Government funding was also provided to support community engagement and housing renewal. Between 2011 and 2014, thirty vacant and blocked up Housing Executive properties were refurbished, mainly by Clanmil Housing, and let to social housing applicants.
In addition, between 2015 and 2017, eight new social houses were developed on the front of the Oldpark Road and let to social housing applicants by Choice Housing.
For more information about housing regeneration in Lower Oldpark since 2010, see Housing Regeneration page.
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