Belfast Telegraph

Housing co-op gets £50m funding hike

By Margaret Canning

Two high street banks have put £50m into Co-Ownership Housing, the association which helps people in Northern Ireland get on the property ladder.

The Bank of Ireland and Barclays' injection announced today is the biggest ever one-off funding arrangement for a housing association and is to be allocated between now and March 2016.

It will enable Co-ownership Housing to buy shares in an estimated 2,500 houses - which will be 'co-owned' with individuals who buy shares of between 50% and 90% which they can later increase.

Around 22,500 households have bought homes through Co-Ownership since it was set up in 1978 to help those with low-incomes and first-time property buyers.

Cameron Watt, head of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said the funding was "a real endorsement of the business model and record of delivery of Co-Ownership Housing".

Paddy Gray, professor of housing at the University of Ulster, said the funding was good news: "Any money coming into housing will be welcome. There is a shortfall of 4,000 of new homes, according to the housing strategy published last week by the Department for Social Development (DSD), with 11,000 homes needed ever year and just 7,000 being built."

Niall Quinn, head of structured finance in Barclays Ireland, said the institution had "extensive knowledge and experience" of working with Co-Ownership Housing and other social housing associations.

Alan Crowe, chief executive of Co-Ownership Housing, said: "We are committed to playing a significant role in supporting affordable home ownership."

Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland head of corporate banking, said the arrangement highlighted the role played by Co-Ownership Housing in making affordable homes a "realistic prospect".

The funding boost comes as the Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin from the DSD gave the latest figures for the building of new houses.

Work started on 990 new dwellings from April to June this year - down 24% on the same period last year. Only 1,300 new houses were finished - down 34%.