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Friday, 27 July 2012

Big changes in our Habitat


Habitat for Humanity's last site at Templemore Avenue in East Belfast
Big changes are ahead for well-known charity Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland, as they move away from building cross-community social and affordable houses in Northern Ireland. The popular building developments - the only NI entry in the publication 'Design Like You Give a Damn' - are to be replaced with a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity NI was founded in 1994 by Peter Farquharson and his wife Jane McCarthy, when Northern Ireland was still in the grip of ‘The Troubles’ and segregation of communities was at its most extreme. Peter envisioned using the Habitat model locally as a way for communities and individuals to rebuild trust and restore relationships - bringing Catholics and Protestants together, simply to build houses, build community and build hope.

Over the last 18 years Habitat for Humanity NI delivered more than 90 homes across 9 different communities and brought together more than 17,000 volunteers from all backgrounds and faiths to work together for the good of families in need. This latest news come just 5 mounts after the NI Peace Monitoring Report suggests that segregation continues across politics, housing and education - and that the region is at risk of lurching back into the past.

The new houses designed by BGA Architects Ltd in association with Habitat for Humanity NI and Tyrone Timber Frames Ltd, were designed so that they were low cost, low energy urban houses. The terrace of 6 houses addresses the strong pattern of Belfast terraced streets in the old ship-building part of the city. The narrow-fronted houses have double height spaces to create the illusion of more space and also to encourage natural stack effect ventilation from the open plan ground floor. A mezzanine floor overlooks the living space below or could provide a future fourth bedroom if required. Externally the houses are finished with red brick to complement the existing housing stock. Large zinc-clad vertical 'box' windows reinterpret the traditional bay window typology.

As Habitat for Humanity's last site at Templemore Avenue in East Belfast nears completion, the charity hopes to launch a ReStore in Northern Ireland. The ReStore is a retail outlet selling new and used surplus building and home improvement materials. This project will be the first Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Europe. Habitat plans to move from the Springfeild Road to a new location in Lisburn. The new store will be a hub for their work in Northern Ireland; this will be an opportunity to raise sustainable income, serve more local families through low cost materials, protect the environment and provide a new way for volunteers to engage with Habitat's work over the long term. 

Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland is also a key partner in Habitat’s global mission raising funds and sending teams to Romania, Malawi, Cambodia, Ethiopia, El Salvador and India. One in every five-hundred people from Northern Ireland have built homes alongside families in need in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

As many property development companies and charities reshape their business plans to face the economic down turn in land prices and property value. While ReStores in the Unites States and Canada have been very popular, raising much need income for the charity, one still feels that there will be a vacuum left behind with the changes away from cross community building.

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