Belfast Telegraph

Housing associations access £125m

Housing associations in Northern Ireland accessed £125 million in private finance to support their social home building projects last year - up more than quarter on the previous 12 months.

The amount of finance secured by the region's 26 associations represents a new record. The total assets now held by the associations has also passed the £3 billion mark for the first time. Together the associations manage 41,564 homes.

The figures were revealed in published accounts for the sector for the financial year 2012/13, produced by PwC.

They will be presented to the annual conference of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) in Londonderry today.

Housing associations, which are not for profit social businesses, use private finance, borrowed against their property holdings, to supplement the funding they receive from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to build new social homes.

The sector employs around 2,853.

Financial headlines for associations include:

:: £125 million (+27%) private finance secured in last year to provide new homes;

::£586 million cumulative total raised to invest in more and better homes;

::Turnover for the year 2012/13 was £185m (+7%);

::Gross Book Value of housing stock now £3 billion;

::Operating surplus £48.7million (+17.4%);

::Wage costs have fallen by 2% in 2012/13 from 2011/12;

::Interest payable has risen by 15% in 2012/13 from 2011/12;

Cameron Watt, chief executive of NIFHA said: "These global accounts from PwC show that in tough times housing associations continue to deliver for Northern Ireland, securing hundreds of millions of pounds in competitively-priced private finance to deliver much-needed new homes.

"The accounts also confirm that housing associations are Northern Ireland's biggest and most successful social businesses. Our sector is efficient and in sound financial health, generating significant private investment to match and multiply government funding for new homes. That's good news for everyone, especially people in housing need and our local construction sector."

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is currently considering a major revamp of how the social housing sector operates in Northern Ireland.

Mr Watt added: "As fundamental reforms to our social housing system are considered, housing associations' success means they deserve a fair chance to take on a bigger role under new structures. Policy makers can have confidence that given the opportunity, local housing associations can make an even greater contribution."

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