£35m deal clears path for new social housing project

Barclays director Joanna McArdle, left, and Fold chair Diana Fitzsimons with DSD Minister Mervyn Storey
Barclays director Joanna McArdle, left, and Fold chair Diana Fitzsimons with DSD Minister Mervyn Storey

A financial package worth £35 million has opened the door to the latest in a series of significant social housing developments.

Fold Housing Association has said it aims to build around 600 housing units across the province over the next two to three as a result of the finance deal agred with Barclays.

“The Barclays financing package together with capital grant funding from the Department for Social Development will underpin an ambitious development programme and provide a valuable boost to the local construction sector,” said Diana Fitzsimons, chair of the association which manages more than 6,000 social housing units.

“Having already secured over £70m of private finance to support the construction of new homes, this additional £35m of financial support from Barclays brings our total investment in local housing to over £100m.

“Fold remains committed to developing high quality, low cost homes to meet an increasing demand for housing.”

The Fold announcement comes just two weeks since Choice housing association annouced a £340m project to build 2,500 units around the provine - billed as the largest social housing development carried out in Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the Fold project Barclays director Joanna McArdle said it was a good fit for the bank.

“Barclays has extensive knowledge and experience of working in Northern Ireland’s social housing sector and a clear understanding of its specific needs.

“We were, therefore, ideally placed to develop a bespoke financial package to support Fold Housing Association’s development programme and assist in achieving a solution which would allow them to deliver on average an additional 200 social housing units per year, over the course of the next three years.

This significant deal will be a great boost for Fold and of course for the thousands of people that will benefit through the provision of these new homes”.

Over the past seven years she said Barclays had injected more than £300m in private finance to the local social housing sector and remained committed to the concept.

“We believe social housing also plays an important role in stimulating the local construction industry which is so important for jobs creation in Northern Ireland.”

Adding his support for the scheme, Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey said: “This private funding, which will complement funding from my department, is very much welcomed, particularly at a time when public finances are under such pressure.”

Adding that the housing association movement had delivered 10,066 new social and affordable homes in the past four years, Mr Storey added:

“ Fold Housing Association has contributed significantly to that success and this new funding will allow more of the same.

“This investment is an endorsement by Barclays that the social housing sector is strong and able to deliver a quality sustainable product that continues to be much in demand.”

Cameron Watt, CEO of the NI Federation of Housing Associations said: “Fold is now one of the largest and best respected residential developers in Northern Ireland. With strong boards and senior teams, Fold and other high-performing housing associations are an investment option of choice for financial institutions.”