New houses to be built on Rathlin Island for first time in 18 years
CONSTRUCTION has begun on the first social homes to be built on Rathlin Island in 18 years.
The 10 houses are situated at Church Bay and will more than double the island's social housing stock.
Noel McCurdy, chairman of the Rathlin Development and Community Association and a retired lighthouse worker, said the investment helped safeguard the area's sustainability.
"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."
He said more young people were returning to work on the picturesque island, in tourism, fisheries, agriculture and on ferries.
"We have been trying for years to get more houses built and it was difficult because we did not have enough people," he added.
He said 15 people were on the waiting list for social housing.
"New young people are coming into the island and young people who were living with their parents and want to move out and make a living on the island," he explained.
Rathlin is Northern Ireland's only inhabited island. Over the last 10 to 15 years there have been about 20-25 houses built privately but none which are cheap enough for low-paid seasonal workers to afford, Mr McCurdy said.
NI Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland was at the official start of construction on Monday.
He said the homes would "bring new and returning residents which will contribute to the regeneration of Rathlin going forward".
"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," he added.
"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.
"I am pleased to play my part in safeguarding the future of the island."
The new homes are being constructed by Apex Housing Association.