I was delighted to be invited here today to the North & East Housing Association Housing Scheme, Ardmore, Bettystown, Meath to come on-site and walk around this wonderful development. At a time when social housing is at a critical point, the completion of the 29 apartments, duplexes and houses for social housing is no mean feat. I understand that 11 of these homes have been occupied for over a year now and the remaining 18 in phase 2 have just been tenanted. That represents 29 sets of families and couples who now have a place that they can call home.
This project is a great demonstration of what can happen when a number of stakeholders come together with a common purpose and vision.
All around Ireland we see evidence of the aftermath of the downturn in the construction and development sector. Unfinished housing estates are one of the saddest reminders of a very devastating time in the Irish economy. Indeed, I have seen photos of this site taken in 2012 before NAMA, the Council and North and East Housing Association began their collaboration and it is incredible to stand here today and see the difference. One particular image stood out to me and that was of the stairs leading to no-where. I suppose you could say that stairs was the metaphor for the entire estate.
Now today, I look around and see a very pleasant and welcoming estate, with homes in place of former semi-complete houses and apartments, well finished green areas and safe spaces to enjoy.
North and East Housing Association have been working in this area for almost 25 years, quietly building itself from a small scale voluntary organisation to the established and well respected Approved Housing Body that it now is.
The Housing Policy Statement 2011 and the Social Housing Strategy 2020 recognised the key contribution that AHBs had to make to the delivery of housing supports in Ireland, building on their track record in terms of both housing provision and management, and the Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness continues to recognise and support the central role of the AHB in the delivery of social housing.
The AHB sector has evolved in a short timeframe from the traditional grant-funded model to greater use of a loan finance approach, reflecting the prevailing arrangements in other jurisdictions. Working with the Housing Finance Agency, 15 AHBs with certified borrower status are currently progressing projects across the country. This is a significant contribution and the Government remains committed to enabling the sector to play a central role in the effort to meet social housing needs.
I congratulate North and East Housing Association, Meath County Council and NAMA for their work in demonstrating not only to locals, but to the country as a whole that the potential of these sites can be recognised, harnessed and delivered upon and I wish the tenants a very happy future in these wonderful homes.