Developers have broken ground on Northern Ireland’s first build-to-rent scheme, with social homes for a local housing association included in the mix.
Watkin Jones, working in partnership with Lacuna Developments, and contractor Graham, is building the scheme at The Loft Lines in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. The brownfield site was previously part of the world-famous Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company.
Forward funding was provided by Legal & General. The social housing element will be delivered for Clanmil Housing Association.
Carol McTaggart, Clanmil’s group chief executive, said: “At Clanmil we provide homes for people to live well, and we are delighted to be part of The Loft Lines, bringing 81 new social rented homes to Titanic Quarter for people who need them.
“Northern Ireland is in the midst of a housing crisis with the highest waiting lists for over a decade. These new social homes, delivered with support from the Department of Communities and NIHE, will help address this growing need, whilst also supporting Northern Ireland’s construction industry and helping to boost our economy.”
George Dyer, Watkin Jones’ group investment director, said: “Titanic Quarter is developing an area that is steeped in rich history, transforming this brownfield site into a thriving place to live and acting as a catalyst for wider regeneration.
“The development is being brought to fruition by a partnership approach between all stakeholders and funders, and we are grateful for the genuine collaboration we have experienced with our partners. This event demonstrates the progress the teams are making for the city of Belfast.”
The Loft Lines development will create 778 new homes, consisting of 627 build-to-rent homes, and 151 “affordable” homes, including Clanmil’s social properties, consisting of a mix from studio flats to three-bedroom apartments.
Watkin Jones claims the development is taking a ‘resident first’ approach, that is it prioritises pedestrians and cyclists over the use of cars. It also helps reduce the location’s carbon footprint.
Grainia Long, chief executive of Northern Ireland Housing Executive, said: “We are delighted to see the first step in the innovative Loft Lines development, which is further progress in ensuring that local people in Belfast have access to affordable housing. We have engaged with both Belfast Harbour and the developer of The Loft Lines from early stages of the development proposals.
“Through the planning process, approximately 10% of the properties of the development have been secured as social rented homes. In practice this means 81 much-needed homes for a range of households, which will be delivered by Clanmil Housing.
“In effect, this development is helping to build stronger communities for local people. The Belfast Agenda sets an ambitious target to increase the number of homes available in Belfast City Centre. It is hugely positive to see affordable housing being delivered as part of a mixed use, mixed tenure regeneration project of such strategic significance for the city.”
John Godfrey, director of levelling up atLegal & General, said: “It is widely accepted that greater investment in our regional towns and cities, particularly to deliver new homes, is needed. As our first scheme in Northern Ireland, this is an important and significant step.
“We strongly believe in the power of pensions capital and the role it plays in accelerating investment-led economic growth, and unlocking much-needed regeneration in all parts of the UK. We hope The Loft Lines scheme will do just that for the regeneration of the Titanic Quarter, the local economy, and broader community of Belfast; we’re delighted to mark the start of its journey.”
Main image: Alex Pease, interim chief executive, Watkin Jones; John Godfrey, director of levelling up, Legal & General; Grainia Long, chief executive, Northern Ireland Housing Executive; and Carol McTaggart, group chief executive, Clanmill Housing Association)
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