Ulster bank has committed to lend £500m for new mortgages in the Northern Ireland housing market in the next year.
The company, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), said that it lent over £400m in new mortgages to Northern Ireland customers in 2009, which included a large increase in lending to first-time buyers.
The bank also quoted figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, showing that it accounted for almost half of all lending to first-time buyers in Northern |Ireland last year.
Ulster Bank’s lending announcement comes as a series of surveys have shown that activity in the Northern Ireland property market remains sluggish and is lagging behind other parts of the UK. Banks have been heavily criticised over the past two years for withdrawing credit for homeowners and businesses.
Chancellor Alistair Darling said in last week’s Budget that RBS, which is 84% owned by the taxpayer, had committed to £50bn of new business lending and £13bn of net mortgage lending.
Ulster Bank’s chief executive of retail markets Mike Bamber, said the bank’s local subsidiary is committed to further increasing its level of mortgage lending in Northern Ireland.
“This year brings similar challenges to 2009 in terms of market conditions. However, we would like to increase our lending further and will be working hard to do so. We’d love to see increased customer demand for mortgages in 2010 and we promise to be there, ready to help buyers.”
In January, the bank said it would continue to offer a shared equity Co-Ownership mortgage — which assists intending first-time buyers unable to finance a property outright.
Through its Co-Ownership and Momentum mortgages, first-time buyers require no deposit and the bank said that all its standard mortgages are available for loan to values ratios of up to 90%.
“Last year was busy for mortgage lending at Ulster Bank, in which we achieved new personal bests. We were delighted to lead the way with innovative and unique offerings like our Momentum and Co-Ownership mortgages, as well as highly competitive mortgage offers. We think that lending more than £400m to the Northern Ireland mortgage market in 2009 was a significant achievement, given the market conditions,” added Mr Bamber.
Ulster Bank has confirmed that Northern Ireland businesses will be able to share in the £50bn in new lending committed to by its parent company, but said it is still finalising the details of its SME lending fund for the next 12 months.