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THE RIGHT CHOICE: Ulster Bank to increase support for Social Housing Sector in Northern Ireland

ULSTER Bank, as part of NatWest Group, has announced plans to increase its lending to the social housing sector in Northern Ireland.

The bank has a depth of local experience and expertise supporting the sector – including recently providing £70 million of lending to Choice Housing to support the development of hundreds of new homes.

NatWest Group’s new ambition of £5 billion of lending over three years from 1 January 2024 to year-end 2026 is intended to support the delivery and maintenance of social housing in the UK, which is vital to the people and families who rely on affordable housing, as well as the wider economy.

It is part of a package of targeted lending and support for social housing aimed at supporting housing associations and homeowners alike in the face of ongoing economic pressures.

Richard Lusty, Relationship Director at Ulster Bank said:“Ulster Bank has provided support to many of Northern Ireland’s housing associations to enable the development of thousands of homes across Northern Ireland, giving us considerable experience of and insight into the sector. As part of NatWest Group, we also have the backing of a very significant new package of targeted lending and support that will help us to increase our lending to the social housing sector.”

“This lending will help housing associations to deliver a pipeline of new homes and improve existing properties, therefore increasing the availability and quality of social housing. Alongside the construction of new properties, this lending can also help housing associations finance energy efficiency improvements and make enhancements to their existing homes, therefore making a positive contribution to both the housing associations and their tenants.” he added.

HOUSING BOOST: Ulster Bank will support the development of hundreds of new homes

Robert Begbie, CEO, Commercial & Institutional Banking, NatWest Group said:“Against a backdrop of inflation and rising living costs, pressures on the housing sector and homeowners have increased. These increasing costs reduce the capacity to deal with other priorities such as new and upgraded housing, and tackling the critical challenges of energy efficiency, fire and tenant safety.

In 2023, we completed nearly £3 bn of new funding to help more people and families have access to housing. We support around 200 housing associations across the UK, and are proud to announce our ambition to provide a further £5billion in funding to support the housing association sector by the end of 2026.”

Today’s announcement is NatWest Group’s latest signal of support to the housing association sector. In February 2021, the bank issued a €1 billion affordable housing social bond, the first of its kind by a UK bank, using the bond proceeds to finance or refinance loans to not-for-profit registered housing associations operating in the UK.

The bank has deepened its work with The Royal Foundation’s Homewards programme, whose aim is to prevent and end homelessness. The programme has identified the need to unlock more housing, and an important element of that is increased lending from bank focussed on social housing. With collaboration at the centre of Homewards’ mission, NatWest Group is actively engaging with the programme to explore how it can offer support and expertise to help prevent homelessness.

Homewards works in six flagship locations (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Northern Ireland, Aberdeen, Sheffield and Newport and Lambeth), and through its work with the bank’s Regional Boards across the UK, and at a national level, the bank is exploring a response, in a collective effort to help prevent homelessness in these areas across the next five years.

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