£70m bank boost opens door for 875 new affordable houses

Choice Housing arranges fresh 15-year loan facility with Ulster Bank

Choice Housing
Announcing £70m in funding for Choice Housing are (from left)) Richard Lusty, relationship director at Ulster Bank; Michael Rafferty, group director of finance & resources, Choice Housing; Michael McDonnell, group chief executive, Choice Housing; and Claire McKeown, associate director at Ulster Bank. They are pictured at the King’s Hall site where a scheme of 80 units is being delivered

Choice Housing has arranged a new £70 million 15-year loan facility with Ulster Bank to support its plans to invest in more than 875 new affordable homes in Northern Ireland.

At present, the association is developing 947 new homes across 16 projects across the north, including flagship housing schemes in Rosses Gate in Derry, King’s Hall in Belfast and St Clare’s Convent in Newry, all with the bank’s support.

But the 875 planned new homes are additional to this, and as a result of the fresh arrangement, Choice is able to access funds quickly and effectively and has also fixed the cost of long-term finance.

Choice Group chief executive Michael McDonnell said: “The cost-of-living crisis, high inflation and geo-politics have impacted every sector across society and social housing is no exception. Whilst our performance in terms of meeting our social homes targets has been good, this facility will support us greatly as we take forward our development plans.

Choice Housing's Killynure Green scheme in Carryduff.
An example of a recent Choice Housing scheme in Carryduff

“We engaged with Savills Financial Consultants to find a tailored, competitive financing solution that aligned with our wider business objectives to invest more in our social housing pipeline. We are pleased with the engagement with Richard and Claire at Ulster Bank and the resulting financial package”

Richard Lusty, relationship director at Ulster Bank, said: “We are proud to be the preferred banking partner in this transaction, as supporting the social housing sector is aligned with our purpose of helping people, families and businesses to thrive.

Claire McKeown, associate director at Ulster Bank, added: “The structure of the facility demonstrates the strength of the relationship we have with Choice and Savills, alongside the wider benefits of being part of NatWest Group.

“Working in partnership with our NatWest Markets colleagues, we were able to provide Choice with a tailored and flexible solution that helps to achieve their goals and ambitions, alongside managing interest rate risk in more challenging economic times.”

Alex Morgan, director at Savills Financial Consultants, said: “We have worked closely with Choice to achieve a flexible solution that provides the certainty they require, without over-committing in a high interest rate environment. The teams across all parties to the transaction have worked hard to deliver a tailored solution for Choice which meets all of the objectives set at the start of the process.”

The transaction was also supported by Trowers & Hamlins, Shoosmiths and Pinsent Masons.

Choice Housing is currently managing a mix of supported, sheltered and general needs housing across the north, providing more than 12,000 homes including 5,000 in the Belfast City Council area alone.