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Housing associations overcome challenges to exceed building targets

Northern Ireland’s housing associations have once again surpassed building targets 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.”

Value for money

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

“In 2017, housing associations’ total borrowings stood at £948m, much of this sourced from private investment and other funding streams. These monies are used to match capital grants from the Department for Communities (DfC) which cannot 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.