The housing association currently has more than 950 homes in its portfolio at 40 schemes across Northern Ireland and primarily provides properties for older people, as well as some family homes.

The new loan facility will be used to fund an extensive building programme, with Alpha setting a minimum target of building 220 homes over five years. The association has recently hired a development manager and added development experience to its board in anticipation of starting work on a pipeline of new projects.

Cameron Watt, chief executive of Alpha Housing, said: “We are committed to providing housing that meets the needs and increasing aspirations of older people. Securing this loan facility means we can make a meaningful contribution to the sector’s overall efforts to address growing housing needs in Northern Ireland.

“Alpha intends to help pioneer a new generation of housing for older people. For the last 5 to 10 years there has been a focus on building family housing – which is much needed – but with an ageing population we need to provide more options for older people, including to downsize where appropriate.”

With increasing numbers of people in ‘housing stress’ across Northern Ireland, there is broad support for increasing social house building from the current c.2000 homes per year. While larger housing associations are expected to build the majority of these homes, Alpha believes smaller and medium sized associations have a vital contribution to make in increasing provision.

Alpha believes there is a generation of older people who want to downsize but are faced with a dearth of suitable options, regardless of tenure.

“There is an urgent need for more housing that fulfils the growing expectations of older people. Alpha developments will be spacious, maximise natural light, provide attractive green space and be conveniently located for local amenities including transport links, shops and cafes. Taken together, all these factors help people sustain a good quality of later life,” said Mr Watt.

Dominic O’Neill from Danske Bank said: “We are delighted to have agreed this loan facility which will help Alpha Housing Association to advance their goals of building developments that provide a more aspirational style of accommodation for older people in social housing.

“Danske Bank is pleased to be playing a part in helping to address the shortfall in social housing in Northern Ireland while also enabling Alpha to sustain homebuilding and construction activity by investing in new housing stock.”