Northern Ireland: Housing associations exceed building targets

Ben Collins

Ben Collins

Housing associations in Northern Ireland have surpassed building targets for 2017 despite challenging economic conditions and political uncertainty.

During the last year, the region’s 20 associations completed work on a total of 1,507 new social and affordable homes, substantially exceeding the Social Housing Development Programme target of 1,200.

In addition, construction started on 1,759 new homes, against a target of 1,750.

Ben Collins, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), said “This is a very good result for the sector, which has been able to deliver despite some challenging economic and political circumstances.

“As well as providing much needed new homes, investment in these new developments also helps boost our local economy and provide valuable jobs, especially in the construction sector.”

Referring to ONS reclassification of housing associations as public sector bodies in 2016, Mr Collins stressed the importance of this decision being reversed.

“In the last financial year alone, housing associations leveraged £948m from private investment to help build social and affordable homes. This was in addition to core funding of c. £1,070m from the Dept. for Communities, which is not able to borrow from private sources.

“Our successful partnership with the DfC and the NI Housing Executive mean that more high quality homes can be built for those who need them most.”

He explained that, if housing associations are classified as public sector bodies, they will no longer be able to draw down private finance to deliver such value for money.

“That’s why it’s essential that the reclassification is reversed. If that is not possible in the absence of a Minister, then the current derogation, which is due to end in March 2019, must be extended. NIFHA will continue to work closely with the Dept. for Communities on this important issue,” Mr Collins concluded.