12 Oct 2020

Hazel Bell, a long-standing Board member and former Chair of Choice has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Hazel received the honour in recognition of her service to the NI Housing Sector and wider community, having spent the last 41 years working to address the growing need for housing provision across Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable in society.

Throughout her career, Hazel has worked with a range of housing associations, always with the same focus and commitment to making people’s lives better through the provision of affordable housing and using it as a tool for further investment in local communities.  In her role as Chair of Choice since 2016 until 2020, Hazel worked with the Senior Management Team to develop a strategic approach towards the ongoing housing situation in Northern Ireland, identifying the need to work with one voice and as a sector when lobbying for change for the better, specifically funding and policy reform.

Hazel led the Board and Senior Management Team in expanding the operations of Choice. In 2016, the organisation committed to ambitious plans for development with c1,000 homes started in the last 3 years.  Hazel also oversaw the addition of two new subsidiaries, Choice Services and Maple and May, to the Choice Group aimed at widening the scope of the organisation and making a positive contribution to the core business. 

As an innovator, Hazel knows that Choice is more than a housing association. Throughout her time with the organisation, she spearheaded vital initiatives that have improved the lives of tenants throughout their schemes, offering them opportunities for volunteering, community engagement, employment and financial management.

Congratulating Hazel on her award, Michael McDonnell, Group Chief Executive of Choice said:

“I wish to thank Hazel for her wonderful leadership at Choice. Since becoming Chair in 2016, Hazel has guided the Group through a period of considerable change and positive transformation. Choice staff, tenants and the wider community can attest to her vision, dedication and rock-solid social values. Congratulations on behalf of everyone at Choice on receiving this special honour.”

Hazel also served on the Board of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) where she has worked hard to deliver housing and support services for communities across the country. Ben Collins, Chief Executive of NIFHA added:

“Hazel Bell joined the NIFHA Board in May 2018 and has been a very constructive member of the Board. As Chair of Choice Hazel played a leadership role for the sector and helped to ensure that we continue to provide much needed new homes, services for tenants and community investment.”