“A good home is so much more than simply ‘a roof over your head’ or a place to raise a family, important though that is,” explains Clare McCarty, Chief Executive of Clanmil Housing Association.
“A warm, well maintained home provides better quality of life and increased opportunities for those in our society who may need assistance. It can help tackle fuel poverty, support older people and other vulnerable people to live independently and encourage responsible citizenship.
“Put simply, a good home is fundamental to our health and well-being,”
This belief that good homes provide a strong foundation for sustainable communities is at the core of Clanmil Housing’s activities.
As a leading provider of high quality, affordable housing for rent, Clanmil owns and manages almost 3,500 homes throughout Northern Ireland. It provides family homes, independent living schemes for over 55s and specialised housing for those needing support, including older people with dementia and young people leaving care.
Clare continues: “Our homes strengthen communities and we are committed to creating high quality affordable housing in safe neighbourhoods where people want to live.”
Clanmil works closely with local communities to ensure that it provides well designed housing that really meets their needs. It was delighted that this was recognised by the Northern Ireland Housing Council, a statutory body that advises on housing policy in Northern Ireland, when it recently named Ardilea Close family housing in Downpatrick best housing association scheme built within the past three years.
The homes at Ardilea Close have been built to high environmental standards, making them 40 per cent more energy efficient than standard houses and considerably cheaper for tenants to run.
Clanmil was also recently presented with a National Innovation and Good Practice Award by erosh, the consortium for older people’s housing and support providers, for a project running at its supported housing schemes for older people with dementia, Mullan Mews and Sydenham Court, which it manages in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
For this innovative project, Clanmil has joined with Northern Visions, a multi-media arts centre, and Flaxart Studios contemporary artists to deliver arts- based activities that increase well-being, address social isolation and help the tenants to live meaningful, active lives and contribute to their community.
Investing in the Future
With one of the largest new build social housing development programmes in Northern Ireland, Clanmil’s investment in housing generates a high economic return. Schemes currently under construction will not only deliver almost 450 much needed new homes, but are also securing 400 on-site construction jobs and over 300 associated jobs throughout the supply chain.
Despite Northern Ireland’s growing housing waiting list, the level of government funding for new social housing has fallen in recent years. In order to ensure that government targets for new homes are met, housing associations such as Clanmil have had to secure significant private finance to stretch public funding. Over the past three years, Clanmil has invested some £28 million of private finance in providing homes for those in our communities who need them.
The on-going maintenance and asset management of its properties remains a key priority for Clanmil, both to ensure that tenants have great homes to live in and to protect its assets. With tenant satisfaction rates currently at 91 per cent and response times exceeding 90 per cent, Clanmil has introduced a robust 30-year asset management strategy to give a level of surety of maintenance spend and assurance to tenants that their homes will remain fit for the future.
Responding to Change
The social housing movement in Northern Ireland is embarking upon a period of significant change at a time when the impact of welfare reform is not yet known. Clanmil commends the excellent work of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in addressing housing need over the past 40 years and it recognises that change is needed to guarantee the continued delivery of good homes.
Clare says: “We welcome the Minister for Social Development’s commitment to establishing new structures to meet future housing need. As social enterprises, local housing associations serve our communities well. It is essential that the wealth of experience and professionalism within Northern Ireland’s housing association movement is not overlooked in the creation of these new structures and in the planned transfer of Housing Executive homes to the private sector.”
Clare is looking to the future with confidence: She adds; “It is true that we are operating in a challenging environment but we are confident that our long-term strategic planning, combined with our ability to find new sources of finance to support our new build programme and other initiatives such as stock transfer, will ensure that Clanmil can respond to change and continue to grow, providing more high quality homes and services in the future for those who need them.”