Hazel Bell OBE has been appointed as the new chair of the organization which represents the 20 housing associations in Northern Ireland.

Member of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) comprising over 53,000 social and affordable housing.

Hazel has considerable experience in the housing industry and has a degree in town and country planning from Newcastle University, as well as a degree in marketing from the University of Ulster. She has worked for over 35 years in social and student housing, community development, urban regeneration and town center management. She is a retired member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and previously served as Regional Chairperson for Northern Ireland.

In 2020, Hazel received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors for her services to social housing in Northern Ireland. She is a past chair of Simon Community NI and Choice Housing Ireland Ltd. Hazel also holds a number of volunteer non-executive director positions, including at LEDCOM, the McDonald Center in North Belfast and as chairman of Access Employment Ltd (AEL).

Hazel served on the NIFHA Board of Directors in 2018-2020 and will replace outgoing President Dr John McPeake, who has held the position since 2019. NIFHA works on a range of policy issues relating to the sector and provides training and member support. , to promote best practices and encourage collaboration. Over the past few months, NIFHA has outlined a series of key reforms and priorities that the next NI executive should focus on to support the social housing sector.

Welcoming the appointment, NIFHA Acting CEO Patrick Thompson said, “We are delighted to have Hazel Bell as the new NIFHA President. She has extensive experience in the social housing field and has demonstrated an unrivaled commitment to the sector for over 35 years, including a very active role on the NIFHA Board of Directors. This is a critical time for the social housing sector, with many key issues such as budgets, planning, renovation and care and support requiring policy reform and certainty for our members. I know we can be assured that Hazel will be a leading voice for housing associations and the wider industry.

“I would also like to thank Dr. John McPeake for his time as Chair. Like Hazel, he has dedicated his entire career to housing, and we are grateful to have had his experience, support and guidance over the past few years.

In taking on this new role, Hazel said: “NIFHA has a vital role to play in representing the views of housing associations, as they work to build new homes, support people and ensure that communities are strong and prosperous. Social housing is a vital part of the housing sector in Northern Ireland, and it will continue to grow, which is why I am delighted to be able to take on the role of President of NIFHA. I look forward to working with our members and the NIFHA team as we ensure our program is at the heart of government and the wider community.

Outgoing President Dr John McPeake added: “It has been an honor to chair NIFHA for the past three years and to work with the wider sector to promote social housing. I know Hazel has a strong commitment to social housing and will be a great advocate for the sector and NIFHA.