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Social housing sector 'worth £1bn in jobs and investment'

By Margaret Canning

Published 02/11/2015

Diana Fitzsimons, Fold Housing Association, and Professor Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University, at Skeoge
Diana Fitzsimons, Fold Housing Association, and Professor Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University, at Skeoge

Social housing organisations generate around £1bn a year in employment and investment in communities, research from the Housing Executive said today.

A report commissioned by the body, which is Northern Ireland's largest landlord, said housing associations had supported £1.152bn of output expenditure during 2012/13. And an umbrella body for housing associations in the province called for more government investment in the sector in the next Programme for Government (PfG).

Sheffield Hallam University - the authors of the report - said the sector is under pressure from welfare reform and austerity.

Its report found 15,500 jobs were supported by the sector - which has 137,000 properties on its books, housing 15.5% of the region's households.

The researchers analysed spending associated with day- to-day management of housing associations in 2012/13.

There are 23 registered social housing associations in Northern Ireland, employing 1,900 people. The three biggest are Helm, Choice - formed from the merger of Oaklee Trinity and Ulidia - and Fold, which between them provide 45% of all social homes.

Housing Executive chief Clarke Bailie said: "These findings illustrate the important contribution the activities and spending of social housing organisations made to employment and the Northern Ireland economy in 2012/13, and the report will be a useful aid to informed decision-making.

"In particular, the high retention of social housing expenditure within Northern Ireland, with associated significant indirect impacts on spending and employment in the local economy, provides important additional justification for the activities of social housing organisations."

And Cameron Watt, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), said the sector needed continued investment.

"By maximising opportunities to refurbish existing homes and build new accommodation, the next Programme for Government can transform thousands of lives and create hundreds of new jobs by 2020.

"That's why we'll be making the case for all parties to put strong commitments on housing at the core of their manifestos for the Assembly elections next May."

The Housing Executive research was published as Fold Housing Association announced a new development in Londonderry.

Fold is now working on a £7m development of 70 new homes at Skeoge in the city - which it said would bring its total investment in the area to nearly £40m over five years.

The new houses are being added to the existing Glenabbey Fold scheme housing 280 families.

The project has been planned through a new procurement system, with the developer responsible for site acquisition, design and construction.

Anita Conway, director of developments at Fold, said: "Acquiring sites in a rising market is getting harder, however, there is an increasing demand for social housing across Northern Ireland. This procurement method has helped to 'free up' some of these opportunities and we are very proud to be able to deliver much needed homes to the Skeoge area."

Belfast Telegraph

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