Supporting ambition

‘Putting a roof over your head’ is both a simple, understandable want, and a significant policy issue in Northern Ireland. At the forefront of meeting that need, anticipating and responding to demand both now and in the future, are Northern Ireland’s Housing Associations, writes Ulster Bank Corporate Relationship Manager Claire McKeown.

Claire McKeown and Gordon Davidson of Ulster Bank.

Claire McKeown and Gordon Davidson of Ulster Bank.

The sector, like many others, has to deal with the challenge of uncertainty in political and regulatory environments yet the urgency of the issues that the associations address means that there is little time for standing still. The industry is a dynamic one, a necessity to ensure that the associations are well-placed to meet the needs of Northern Ireland in expanding and enhancing the provision of affordable homes.

In part, this dynamism is developed through the unique level of exposure that the associations have to both public and private ways of working and funding. They need to be agile enough to respond to market pressure and new opportunities, all without losing sight of statutory duties and the necessary governance and procedure that comes from working closely with the public sector.

Rather than see this as stifling, one of the things that we as a bank have noted is a real upsurge of innovation in the sector – as the use of special purpose vehicles, residential development and interest in stock transfer arrangements showcases an entrepreneurial spirit and a flexible approach to meeting needs as they arise. Increasingly, we are also seeing examples of associations taking advantage of the low interest rate environment to meet their funding needs – not just for the next year, but for many years ahead, giving them a degree of certainty that helps them plan and invest with confidence.

At Ulster Bank, we are proud to support this ambition, and we have the structural flexibility and experience to help our customers place some of the largest finance deals in the sector in recent years. Our dedicated corporate banking team has a wealth of experience in delivering bespoke deals, which have helped to provide support for housing developments right across Northern Ireland.

Our understanding of the sector has enabled us to work with both large and small associations, and our collaboration with colleagues from across Royal Bank of Scotland’s specialist housing finance teams has helped us to efficiently and effectively put in place arrangements for traditional lending, stock transfer funding and long-term financing options, all backed up by a face-to-face relationship.

As we work through the implications of changes to the sector, the team at Ulster Bank is on hand to offer funding, advice and support to those operating in the sector as they look to ensure its sustainable development. Our ambition is to be the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy. We aim to achieve that by working in close partnership with our customers, developing relationships where we can provide proactive support and insight – providing meaningful help for what matters.

For more information about the support that Ulster Bank can offer your Association, please contact
Claire McKeown (Claire.mckeown@ulsterbank.com / 028 9027 6135) or Gordon Davidson (gordon.davidson@ulsterbank.com / 028 9027 6158), who will be happy to discuss.

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