The construction of 2,403 new social homes were started in Northern Ireland in 2020/21, according to the Communities minister – almost 30% more than the target for the year.
Deirdre Hargey added that 1,850 social homes were completed during the same period, 1,318 against a target of 1,200.
The minister also revealed a boosted budget for new social housing, with £162m being made available for 2021/22 – an increase of c.£26m from 2020/21.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I am delighted to see this progress on so many houses. Whilst the statistics are important, each one of those houses represents a home for those who are on our social housing waiting list, many of who will have been waiting for some time.
“The homes will meet the needs of many across our society including the elderly, those with disabilities, young people and families.
“I want to thank our delivery partners in the Housing Executive and the housing associations for their hard work in what has been a challenging year.
“We must now turn our attention to ensure we continue to deliver an enhanced new build programme.”
The minister continued: “Housing stress levels here are totally unacceptable. Our housing system is in need of transformative change.
“I have set out the direction of how we will achieve this through the biggest shake up of our housing system in over 50 years.
“I am determined to deliver more social homes. I am pleased to have delivered on a ‘New Decade New Approach’ commitment to enhance the level of investment in new social housing by £26m, with £162m to be invested in the new build programme this year.
“I will also reintroduce ring-fencing. We will build homes where they are needed.”
Commenting on the existing Housing Executive stock, the minister said: “As well as continuing to deliver on the new build programme, protecting our existing stock is of fundamental importance if we are to meet the needs of tenants now and in to the future.
“In 2020/21, in addition to the £129m invested by the Housing Executive in its homes through rental income, I directed a further £62m to the Housing Executive for investment in its maintenance programme.
“I will also soon consult on the future of the House Sales Scheme.
“The investment challenge facing the Housing Executive is significant and the investment it requires will not be addressed with simply tinkering around the edges.
“The revitalisation agenda is of the utmost importance for the organisation and the people it serves.”
The Minister added: “Equality and rights are the basis of my approach. Housing, and having a place to call home, is a fundamental right.
“I am committed to delivering a housing system that delivers those rights to everyone across society.”
Responding to the minster’s statement, Ben Collins, chief executive of NIFHA (Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations), said: “That housing associations have managed to exceed the new start target in such a manner during the pandemic, with all the additional pressure it brought, is testament to the exceptional commitment to providing first class, new homes right across Northern Ireland to help those in housing stress.
“The new homes these associations build have a significant economic multiplier impact of around £1bn a year for the regional economy, when we take into account the impact on the wider supply chain.
“The NI Executive has indicated that they consider new build housing to be key to our region’s economic recovery post-pandemic.
“Housing associations will continue to lead the way on this, working with government, housing executive, and the wider construction industry to successfully deliver this.”
Image: Nigel Stripe/Shutterstock
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