Housing associations and their partners in Northern Ireland have invested £8.7m to support and develop local communities, according to the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations.
Figures were revealed today (7 November) at a Getting to Know Housing Associations event at the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, where housing associations met with MLAs to highlight the vital and transformational work their organisations are carrying out across Northern Ireland.
Community investment is an important area for associations, with more than 25,000 people benefitting from activities such as employment and education programmes, money advice schemes, community facilities and health and wellbeing initiatives.
Social housing tenant Marlene McLaughlin has been able to transform her life after taking part in a financial inclusion scheme Apex Housing Association ran as part of its community investment work. She was using doorstep lenders to access money and her financial situation spiralled out of control, until she found out about the scheme.
Speaking at the event, she said: “I never understood interest rates before I joined the programme. To me it was just get a cash loan on your doorstep and pay back £5 a week. I was encouraged to join the affordable credit scheme, it was my lifeline. I no longer need to use loan sharks. I have no debt now and at long last I am managing my money.”
NIFHA’s Chief Executive Cameron Watt commented: “We are an ambitious sector and housing associations are real agents of change, making a positive impact in the communities they serve right across Northern Ireland.
“The sector is making a significant economic contribution to the local economy and community investment is high on our agenda; for every £23 of housing association turnover in 2014/15, £1 was spent on additional community investment activities by the sector and its partners, helping to build great homes and thriving communities.”
Jill Smyth, Community Programmes Manager at Ulster Bank, said: “Ulster Bank works closely with housing associations across Northern Ireland, and knows well the extremely important role they play in the economy and society; a role that is about much more than housing provision. The sector’s ethos of community investment is one that we share at Ulster Bank, with our range of community programmes, and we are very pleased to support this important initiative today.”