New-build homes at highest in seven years
THE number of new homes being started in Northern Ireland is at the highest level in seven years, according to statistics released by the Department for Communities.
The department’s Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin shows the number of new dwellings commenced from April to June was 2,444 — 19% higher than the same quarter last year, and the highest since 2010.
While the number of homes completed during this period fell 2.4%, it continues a long-term upward trend.
Nicola McCrudden, Chartered
Institute of Housing director for Northern Ireland, said: “The improvement in the level of housebuilding is very welcome. It is being driven by the ongoing recovery of the private sector, which started the highest number of new homes in seven years.
“The housing association sector also continues to contribute by providing much-needed social homes.
“The ongoing recovery of house-building in Northern Ireland will help to ease pressure on rents and house prices.
“However, the level of new house-building needs to keep up with the level of need and we still have some way to go.
“There are obstacles that we must overcome including getting land where it is needed and improving our planning system.”
Ms McCrudden added: “The impact of Brexit is yet to be determined. There are concerns about the availability of skilled labour, the cost of materials and access to European finance for social housing providers.”
The bulletin also revealed a rising number of people who are homeless and qualify for full assistance under the law.
Ms McCrudden said: “Levels of homelessness remain unacceptably high in Northern Ireland.
“This is partly due to existing accommodation no longer meeting the needs of growing numbers of people with complex needs.”
NORTHERN Ireland’s house prices are rising at a “relatively healthy rate” with annual growth of 6% to an average of £132,169, according to latest figures.
The residential property price index from Land and Property Services said the lowest priced average homes were £115,339 in Derry City and Strabane, while the dearest houses were in Lisburn & Castlereagh, where the average cost was £159,966.
And house prices across all district council areas rose over the quarter. While there was a 6% jump year-on-year, prices were also up 3% on the quarter before. Prices were also up 19.1% on the first quarter of 2015.
Samuel Dickey, the residential property spokesman at the Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said all district council areas had experienced rising prices, with Derry City and Strabane, along with the Causeway Coast and Glens, experiencing the strongest growth.
But, he continued, the house price index was still 44% below its peak in the third-quarter of 2007, ahead of the credit crunch and the collapse in the property market.
Mr Dickey said: “Looking in more depth, it is clear that there is variation in the market between property types, with new build prices rising much more quickly that prices for existing stock, and the average price of semi-detached properties rising more quickly in the past quarter (5.2%) than other property types.
“Indeed, the price of apartments actually fell marginally quarter-on-quarter (-0.6%).”
He said the annual growth of 6% was “relatively healthy”.
“Looking ahead, the RICS survey suggests that this will be maintained into 2018, albeit that there are some challenges, including limited supply, alongside rising inflation and the fact that interest rates are edging upwards.”
Meanwhile, the separate Housing Bulletin from the Department for Communities revealed that builders in Northern Ireland started work on 2,444 new homes in spring this year — an increase of 19% on the year before.
However, the government’s Housing Bulletin also said that the number of new houses completed between April and June had fallen by 2.4% compared to the previous year, at 1,642.
Nicola McCrudden, the director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland, said: “The ongoing recovery of housebuilding in Northern Ireland will help to ease pressure on rents and house prices.
“However, the level of new housebuilding needs to keep up with the level of need and we still have some way to go. There are obstacles that we must overcome, including getting land where it is needed and improving our planning system.”
Brexit could also have an effect, she added: “The impact of Brexit is yet to be determined — there are concerns about the availability of skilled labour, the cost of materials and access to European finance for social housing providers.”
The bulletin also revealed there were 4,650 households without a home during the quarter — down 11.3% on the quarter before. “Levels of homelessness remain unacceptably high in Northern Ireland. This is partly due to existing accommodation no longer meeting the needs of growing numbers of people with complex needs,” it stated.
Improvement: Nicola McCrudden
Samuel Dickey of the RICS