Belfast Telegraph

New Fold and Helm housing association will be the biggest in Northern Ireland

By Rachel Martin

Fold and Helm are to merge to create Northern Ireland's biggest housing association with £325m to invest in the construction industry, it has been announced.

The organisations said their merger would see create an entity responsible for over 12,000 social houses in Northern Ireland and that the deal would have a "positive impact on society".

It is the second major consolidation in the sector after Oaklee and Ulidia merged last year to form Choice.

The new association has yet to be named, but it will overtake Choice, which is currently the largest independent housing association in Northern Ireland with more than 10,500 homes.

The boards of the two associations have said no compulsory redundancies will be made among their combined workforces of nearly 1,000 people.

Helm is based in Belfast, while Fold is based in Holywood, Co Down.

Fold Housing chairman Diana Fitzsimons said: "Fold and Helm are committed to delivering the next chapter in both organisations' story.

"We have a combined vision for the future which will see us continuing to enable and support people of all ages to live in the community through a range of traditional, innovative and technological housing solutions.

"Demand for our services is growing and we are confident that merging with Helm Housing will place us in a strong position."

The organisations will now start a consultation before the merger can take place, and it is expected that it will come into operation in April of next year.

Once the merger process is completed, the new body will provide services for around 30,000 households.

The new association has plans to increase social investment, deliver apprenticeship and employment schemes for communities and invest in information technology to improve choice and services.

In its first five years the social enterprise is forecast to increase its assets to approximately £1.25bn and its turnover to £110m, while also investing around £325m in the construction and contracting industry.

They said the merger would increase growth, allow more investment in systems and technology and fund new support services.

Helm Housing Association chairman Liz Cuddy added: "This is an exciting time for Helm and for Fold and the merger will help us to make a real and lasting difference to the people and communities that we serve. Between us there is over 80 years' experience and we at Helm look forward to bringing our expertise together with that of Fold to supply high-quality, affordable housing for a wide range of people.

"Together we are well-placed to deliver on the ambitious targets set for our future, which will see quality homes provided for our tenants, including people with disabilities, homeless families and vulnerable individuals."

Earlier this year Fold announced a major building programme for its 40th year.

Work has already started on a housing development at the former Visteon site in west Belfast.

Around 240 new private and social homes are being built in a £25m project.

Belfast Telegraph