As other parts of the UK begin to lag behind housebuilding targets, specifically for the social housing sector, Housing associations in Northern Ireland surpassed government targets for social housing starts and completions over the last year.
While the targets were only beaten by a marginal amount, with completions up 3.5% and starts up nearly 0.5%. Across 82 schemes, 1449 homes were completed, with work starting in 1956.
The Department for Communities had set out targets of 1400 and 1950, respectively. Despite the exceeding targets being only small, it is welcomed news across the housebuilding sector as this achievement seems like a pipe dream for other countries in the UK.
Echoing this sentiment, Seamus Leheny, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, said that in the face of “Significant economic challenges faced by the constructor sector, this is a remarkable achievement.”
Housing associations continue to be responsible for house building
With the political landscape in Northern Ireland slightly different to the rest of the UK, housing associations are directly responsible for the delivery of housing, which utilises private funding to match DfC commitments for project delivery.
As is true for the rest of the UK, social housing waiting lists are growing faster than we can build. This is why this news was so welcomed, with more than 44,000 people on the housing waiting list.
For the citizens of Northern Ireland, it is essential that housebuilding is ramped up even further to exceed the targets by more and more houses as we get to the back end of the decade.
The need for social housing rising as cost of living bites
Additionally, Mr Leheny said: “The need for more new social housing is clear right across Northern Ireland, and our members are faced with the challenge of delivering new projects in tight time frames, within limited budgets and often in the backdrop of an overburdened planning system.
With 1,956 new starts and 1,449 completed homes, it is one of the most successful periods the sector has had in recent years.
Despite this, the landscape of the housebuilding sector overall still looks bleak. Housing waiting lists are growing, and construction costs are rising significantly, with external pressures continuing to impact the industry.
Moving forwards, Mr Leheny expressed that: “We want to see the next social housing budget allocation match the ambition and ability of the social housing sector to deliver on targets for new homes. Cuts to the housing budget at this time would be a retrograde step and would have long-term implications for how we deal with housing waiting lists.”