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Housing associations to merge into group responsible for 12,000 properties

By Joanne Sweeney

Two of Northern Ireland’s largest housing associations are merging in a deal which will see the new group responsible for 12,000 homes.

Fold and Helm housing associations forecast that the new organisation will have a turnover of £90m and increase its assets to £3.5bn within five years.

The new housing association will employ close to 1,000 staff and provide services to around 30,000 households in Northern Ireland.

It will also be responsible for 12,000 homes across the region.

The decision is subject to due diligence and the necessary approvals, the boards of Fold and Helm have confirmed.

The respective boards claim that the “ambitious plans” will also boost apprentice employment and increase social investment for communities.

Helm’s board chair Liz Cuddy said the deal will bring improved and more efficient customer service to existing tenants.

“In times of record levels of housing need, a new and financially stronger provider will be better placed to build more homes, right across Northern Ireland,” she said.

“We look forward to working with colleagues at Fold in the coming weeks and months to bring this about.”

Fold’s board chair Diana Fitzsimons said that both associations had 80 years of experience between them.

“This also means we can increase our investment in local communities and contribute to the Housing Plus agenda. Both boards have considered the impact of key challenges such as welfare reform, both on our tenants and our businesses.

“We feel strongly that this collaboration leaves us much better placed to support our tenants, invest in new systems and technology and grow and expand our service offering.”

The deal is due to be completed early next year.

Fold last month completed a £2.8m social housing project in Twinbrook in west Belfast, with 31 houses and two shops.

Helm announced last summer its plan to turn a former Dungannon bakery into 28 apartments in a £3.1m housing project.

The new association will have a significant social housing presence in all 11 council areas serviced by a regional office network spanning Belfast, Holywood, Ballymena, Newry and Londonderry.

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