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Great Homes, Thriving Communities, Cameron Watt, NIFHA Conference Speech, 23 October 2014

Published on: 23 October, 2014

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Can you remember what were you doing in 1974?

I can’t – I didn’t arrive until 1975.

But I’ve been doing my research.

We had two General Elections.

Ted Heath was Prime Minister at the start of the year.

With Harold Wilson Premier from May.

Abba won Eurovision.

Beckenbauer’s West Germany triumphed in the World Cup.

Ali won the Rumble in the Jungle.

Here, the Troubles were at their height.

Enoch Powell was elected as an Ulster Unionist MP.

The Ulster Workers’ Council strike lead to the collapse of the power-sharing Assembly and Executive.

Social conditions were tough.

Poverty and poor housing was rife.

The Housing Executive had just been established tackle poor housing and embark on a hugely ambitious new-build programme.

But all of us are gathered here together because of something else that happened in 1974.

A few pioneers organised a small conference, held in December at the Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle.

Community activists, politicians and civil servants considered the potential of creating a voluntary housing movement.

Among those present were Erskine Holmes and Leslie Morrell.

Both men have served the movement over the last forty years and I am delighted they’re with us today.

We’ve come a long way since 1974.

As well as Northern Ireland’s leading social enterprises, we’re also its biggest and best resourced charities.

We also now provide a third of Northern Ireland’s affordable homes.

This afternoon PwC’s Martin Pitt will detail continued strong growth in the new sector global accounts.

And I want to thank Martin and PwC for this very valuable analysis.

Without pre-empting Martin, the accounts show the major contribution we’re making to the local economy.

Turnover has topped £200 million and we’re managing housing assets worth £3.3 billion.

We’re directly employing 3,000 people, accounting for £60M in wages.

Back in April, Clanmil secured a record £120 Million in low-cost funding from Danske Bank and Barclays to build 1,600 new homes.

So whilst our sector is unrecognisable from its early years, I’m confident that we remain true to our original mission and values.

To provide great homes.

And, working with others, help build thriving communities.

Building on solid foundations, housing associations are well placed to make a transformational impact over the next forty years.

And this morning I want to describe how we might fulfil that immense potential.

There are three key elements.

Firstly, excellence in the services we deliver.

Secondly, strong support from key partners.

And thirdly, bold, astute leadership.

Read Cameron’s Speech in full.

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