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Co Armagh town and village centres set for housing boost

An investment of around £300,000 is set to rejuvenate 15 empty town centre properties across Northern Ireland.

The Housing Executive, alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Townscape Heritage scheme, launched a pilot scheme called ‘Heritage in Housing’ last year.

Central to the delivery of a Townscape Heritage scheme is a joint funding pot, made up of the HLF grant (between £100,000 and £2million), together with funds from the grantees and any other partners, from which grants are made to private owners (third-party grants).

Properties that have been empty above or close to business premises will receive funding for repairs and improvements which will provide additional housing options in areas of need.

In total, 15 properties were selected to receive funding located within the six designated conservation areas (Portaferry, Richhill, Derry/Londonderry, Ballymoney, Donaghadee and Carrickfergus). Almost £100,000 was invested into properties in 2015/16 and £200,000 in 2016/17 on a three year programme aiming to complete in 2017/18.

The Housing Executive’s Director for Regional Services Siobhan McCauley said: “The aim of the Heritage in Housing’ initiative  is to reinstate empty properties, addressing blight and promoting affordable housing within town centres.

“A list of 65 potentially suitable properties across Northern Ireland were shortlisted, with 15 properties selected for refurbishment. By investing in empty properties in urban areas, this will stimulate economic activity with areas populated after business hours.

“The Housing Executive is committed to fostering vibrant communities and the Heritage in Housing scheme will make a difference to homes and neighbourhoods through investment. The re-use of existing vacant space is a cost-effective means of creating additional housing accommodation which ultimately benefits the social life and economic vitality of the area.”

Angela Lavin, Casework Manager of Heritage Lottery Fund NI said “Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) invests a huge amount of National Lottery players’ money to make communities better places to live and work. An area’s culture and heritage is important not just for its own sake, but it can also boost jobs and local economies, improve education and life chances and promote community cohesion and wellbeing.

“Our grant programmes including Townscape Heritage and Heritage Enterprise have been important tools for bringing out the distinctiveness of our towns and cities. We were delighted that the Housing Executive has been able to work alongside us with their Heritage in Housing programme. The complementary funding has enabled a wider range of historic properties to be brought back into use and the funding has helped to regenerate and transform towns and conservation areas into attractive and vibrant places. We look forward to work in partnership with the Housing Executive in future initiatives”.

Chairperson of Richhill Buildings Preservation Trust Jim Speers says: “The grant contributions made by NIHE and HLF have benefited the village in many ways.  It has allowed the restoration of buildings within the conservation area preserving them for future generations and has brought vacant floor space back into use by providing homes.”

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