The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations has announced Hazel Bell OBE as the new Chairperson of the organisation which represents the region’s 20 housing associations, encompassing over 53,000 quality social and affordable homes.
Hazel has considerable experience in housing and is a graduate in town and country planning from Newcastle University, as well as qualifying in marketing at Ulster University. She has worked for over 35 years in social and student housing, community development, urban regeneration and town centre management. She is a retired member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and has previously served as their Northern Ireland regional president.
In 2020 Hazel was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to social housing in Northern Ireland. She is a former chair of Simon Community NI and of Choice Housing Ireland Ltd. Hazel also holds a number of voluntary non-executive director positions, including LEDCOM, The McDonald Centre in North Belfast and as Chair of Access Employment Ltd (AEL).
Hazel served on the board of NIFHA in 2018-20, and will replace outgoing chair, Dr John McPeake, who has served in that role since 2019. NIFHA works on a range of policy issues relating to the sector and provides training and support to members, to promote best practice and encourage collaboration. In recent months, NIFHA has set out a range of essential reforms and priorities the next NI Executive should focus on to support the social housing sector.
Welcoming the appointment, Interim CEO of NIFHA, Patrick Thompson said: “We are delighted that Hazel Bell will be the new chair of NIFHA. She has a wealth of experience in social housing, and has shown unparalleled commitment to the sector for more than 35 years, including a very hands on role on the board of NIFHA. This is a critical time for the social housing sector, with many key issues such as budgets, planning, retrofitting and care and support needing policy reform and certainty for our members. I know we can be assured that Hazel will be a leading voice for housing associations and the wider sector.
“I would also like to thank Dr John McPeake for his time as chair. Like Hazel, he has given his whole career to housing, and we are grateful to have had his experience, support and counsel over the last number of years.”
On taking on the new role, Hazel said: “NIFHA has a vital role in representing the views of housing associations, as they work to build new homes, support people and ensure communities are strong and prosperous. Social housing is an essential part of the housing sector in Northern Ireland, and it will continue to grow, which is why I am delighted to be able to take on the role of Chair of NIFHA. I look forward to working with our members and the NIFHA team as we ensure our agenda is central to government and the wider community.”
Outgoing chair Dr John McPeake added: “It has been an honour to serve as Chair of NIFHA over the last three years, and to work with the whole sector to promote social housing. I know that Hazel has a strong commitment to social housing, and that she will be an excellent advocate for the sector and NIFHA.”