Published Monday, 02 April 2012
It's almost 20 years since the last social houses were built on Rathlin Island. (© Harrison)
Nelson McCausland made the journey on Monday morning to Northern Ireland's only inhabited offshore island, just off the north Antrim coast, to cut the first sod on the site.
It is almost 20 years since the last social houses were built there. Situated at Church Bay, they will more than double the social housing stock on Rathlin and will provide permanent homes for families on the housing waiting list.
It is hoped the new homes will also assist families who have left Rathlin to return and re-establish their roots on the island.
The homes are around 44% more energy efficient than the current Building Regulation standards, and more sustainable in the longer term. Three of the houses have two bedrooms while the remaining seven have three bedrooms.
The minister said: "I am delighted to see the construction of these new homes get underway. The design and delivery of high quality energy efficient social housing will protect the homes from the worst of the Atlantic elements and will in turn help protect the tenants.
"Rathlin is Northern Ireland's only inhabited offshore Island and is therefore a unique asset. These homes will help protect the future of the Island and ensure that it remains a permanent residential community for generations to come."
He said he was pleased to play his part in safeguarding the future of the Island.
"These new homes will bring new and returning residents which will contribute to the regeneration of Rathlin going forward," the minister concluded.
Noel McCurdy, Chair of the Rathlin Development & Community Association, said the new housing programme is "a tremendous support for the sustainability of the Rathlin community."
"Affordable housing is very limited here and this vital scheme will provide opportunity for young islanders and new Rathlin families to remain in the community and be a part of its future.
"We are delighted that the Department for Social Development and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive are able to support the community in this practical way."
Apex Housing Association, one of 31 housing associations registered with the Department for Social Development, assisted in the provision of the housing.
Gerry Kelly, Apex's Chief Executive, said they are holding additional land in reserve "to meet future housing need" on the island.
© UTV News