Work is finally under way on a long-awaited multi-million pound housing project that was being held up by the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont.
Almost 60 disused former Ministry of Defence (MOD) properties at Mountview Drive in Lisburn are being refurbished to provide a mix of social and affordable homes.
The 59 homes - thought to be valued at around £5 million - were transferred to Clanmil Housing Association by the Department for Communities in March 2019 following a lengthy delay caused by the lack of a devolved government, meaning there was no minster in place to authorise the transfer.
The go-ahead for the transfer of the homes to Clanmil was one of the first decisions taken by senior civil servants under arrangements introduced by the Westminster government in October 2018.
The £4.6 million refurbishment project - £2.7m of which is grant funded - will bring the homes back into use for letting to families from the waiting list and for affordable sale.
In 2014, Clanmil completed the first phase of the scheme, refurbishing 36 former Army homes in the area to provide social homes and homes for sale through a part ownership, part rental scheme.
Expressing her delight that phase two is finally under way, Clare McCarty, group chief executive of Clanmil Housing, said: “Refurbishment is bringing these vacant houses back to life as much needed, high quality, affordable family homes.
“We worked closely with the Department for Communities to progress the transfer but the lack of an Assembly delayed the refurbishment and left the homes lying vacant for longer than they should have.
"We are delighted that a mechanism is now in place to allow important decisions like this to be made and we are really looking forward to seeing the first families moving in by the end of the year and making these homes their own.”
Local councillor Jonathan Craig, who alongside other political representatives campaigned to have the vacant properties transferred to Clanmil, said tens of thousands of pounds per year was being spent on interventions and security measures in a bid to stop vandalism at the site.
Welcoming the start of the refurbishment work, the DUP man said: "It is great to see that what had turned into a blight in local community is now being transformed into something that will benefit the community and local families.
"There has been a huge housing need in the local area for decades and this will help that situation. And it will also help a number of families with an affordable way to get on the property ladder."