A Northern Ireland housing association is all set begin a significant investment in new rural homes after securing a multi-million pound deal with Danske Bank.
Rural Housing Association (RHA), established in 1992 to provide affordable homes for rural communities in the province, has agreed a new £25m funding package.
The structured loan facility will be used to fund ongoing investment, including the development of around 300 new properties over seven years.
Danske’s funding is expected to convert to a sustainability-linked loan once environmental, social and governance (ESG) KPIs have been agreed.
Stephen Fisher, RHA’s chief executive, said: “This is an exciting time for Rural Housing. We are dedicated to delivering great homes for our tenants by prioritising sustainability without compromising on quality or aesthetics.
“We are committed to making a positive impact on the environment by designing and building homes that not only meet the highest standards of comfort and style but also significantly reduce energy consumption, providing our tenants with healthier and more cost-effective homes.”
MaryFrances McCrystal, the housing association’s finance director, added: “We have banked with Danske Bank for a number of years and this new long-term partnership will allow us to invest in new homes and maintain existing properties to meet the ongoing demand for affordable housing in the rural communities we serve.
“Danske has a great understanding of the social housing sector and Rural Housing Association’s particular areas of focus so we believe it is a relationship that will help us support our tenants for many years to come.”
RHA’s design strategies focus on insulation, airtightness, orientation, and ventilation to maximise heat loss and gain. It looks to incorporate energy efficiency measures and integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar or geothermal system to offset each building’s energy needs.
The organisation says its principles have been put into practice on recent schemes, with nine homes in Lisnaskea including air source heat pumps (ASHP). An ASHP system is also included in 15 units to be completed in Sion Mills in January.
The association recently completed nine new homes and an apartment block in Randalstown, which utilises a communal geothermal ground source heat pump system. In this, the heat is extracted from the earth and circulated through a network to each apartment. This communal system will deliver increased energy efficiency and cost savings to the tenants.
It is also building 10 new homes on Rathlin Island to Passive House Classic Standards, a set of building performance criteria focused on achieving exceptional energy efficiency and comfort. To achieve this requires high levels of insulation, high performance windows and doors, creating an airtight construction, use of mechanical ventilation and heat recovery, as well as eliminating thermal bridging.
Terri McCullagh, corporate banking manager at Danske Bank, said: “We are pleased to have agreed this new facility with our long-standing customer Rural Housing Association and excited to support the Association with its plans to continue building much needed new homes in rural areas. Their focus on energy efficient and sustainable homes aligns with the Bank’s own sustainability goals.
“Danske Bank has been a lead provider of finance to the social housing sector in Northern Ireland for many years and we want to continue to help the sector to thrive and meet the needs of people across Northern Ireland.”
Main image: (Left to right) Stephen Fisher, chief executive, Rural Housing; Terri McCullagh from Danske Bank; and MaryFrances McCrystal, finance director at Rural Housing
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.