Belfast Telegraph

300 rural Northern Ireland homes in pipeline following £13m social housing sites investment

By Emma Deighan

Social housing developer the Rural Housing Association (RHA) will build nearly 300 homes following a £13m investment supported by Danske Bank.

Of that £13m, £4.5m has already been allocated to buy properties and develop three sites that are due to begin work next year. A total of 287 homes are to be built.

The remainder of the investment will be used to purchase more sites, including a 10-unit dwelling on Rathlin Island, over the next four years.

Stephen Fisher, chief executive at RHA, said: "Our focus is on delivering affordable homes to rural areas with a population of less than 5,000.

"Acquiring the land to develop is the most challenging part of our work.

"There is a big demand from the Housing Executive for family housing, with the gap between supply and demand still a major concern.

"These new homes will be a mix of two and three bed properties."

He added: "We have banked with Danske Bank since 2011 and they've backed us on a number of schemes.

"This latest round of investment will ensure we are able to deliver affordable housing in rural areas for the next five years."

Chris Martin, head of social housing at Danske Bank, said: "This investment reflects Danske Bank's continued presence and increased activity in the social housing market.

"Over the past three years we have supported a number of significant projects coming to market - both at home and in England.

"While demand still outstrips supply, the housing sector is steadily recovering after a number of difficult years, and we welcome the opportunity to support social housing developers with working capital finance."

The investment announcement was made not long after the Department for Communities revealed that the number of new homes being started in NI is at its highest level in seven years. Its Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin showed the number of new dwellings commenced from April to June was 2,444 - 19% higher than the same quarter last year, and the highest since 2010.

Nicola McCrudden, Chartered Institute of Housing director for Northern Ireland, said the growth is being driven by the "ongoing recovery" over the private sector as well as the contribution from the housing association sector.

She added: "However, the level of new house building needs to keep up with the level of need and we still have some way to go."

Rural Housing Association was established in 1992 to provide a supply of readily available and affordable accommodation.

It works throughout Northern Ireland, tackling social housing shortages in disadvantaged rural areas.

The company is based in Omagh and currently employs 16 staff.

Belfast Telegraph

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