Belfast Telegraph

Bank sets aside £35m to fund Fold social housing plans

By Margaret Canning

Plans by Fold Housing Association to fund 600 social and affordable houses will be funded by £35m in finance from Barclays, it was announced today.

Fold already manages around 6,000 social housing properties in Northern Ireland and recently launched Global Crescent, a £13m 'shared neighbourhood' housing scheme in south Belfast with 127 homes.

Diana Fizsimons, the chairperson of Fold, said the finance from Barclays would be used with capital grant funding from the Department for Social Development.

Combined, they are to "underpin an ambitious development programme and provide a valuable boost to the local construction sector over the next two to three years".

"Having already secured over £70m of private finance to support the construction of new homes across NI, this additional £35m of financial support from Barclays brings our total investment in local housing to over £100m.

"Fold remains committed to developing high-quality, low-cost homes to meet an increasing demand for housing."

Joanna McArdle, director of Barclays, said: "Barclays has extensive knowledge and experience of working in Northern Ireland's social housing sector and a clear understanding of its specific needs."

She said it was well placed to give funding to Fold Housing's development.

The association plans to build an extra 200 social homes per year over the next three years.

She said: "This significant deal will be a great boost for Fold and of course for the thousands of people that will benefit through the provision of these new homes".

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey said: "This private funding, which will complement funding from my department, is very much welcomed, particularly at a time when public finances are under such pressure.

"The housing association movement has just come through a very successful period with 10,066 new social and affordable homes delivered in the past four years.

"Fold Housing Association has contributed significantly to that success. This investment is an endorsement by Barclays Bank that the social housing sector is strong and able to deliver a quality sustainable product."

Cameron Watt, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said the funding would deliver "many more much-needed homes".

"With strong boards and senior teams, Fold and other high-performing housing associations are an investment option of choice for financial institutions. Local housing associations look forward to continuing our successful partnership with Barclays."

Fold's news is the second big social housing announcement for Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

Choice - formed from the merger of Oaklee, Trinity and Ulidia - last month announced an investment package which will inject up to £340m in social and affordable housing. The plans include building more than 2,500 new homes in the next five years.

The scheme is part-funded by Danske Bank. Choice said its project would generate more than 700 construction jobs in the next five years.


Belfast Telegraph