Building of new homes in Northern Ireland slumped by 16% at start of year
The number of new homes started in Northern Ireland has slumped by 16%, according to new figures.
Work commenced on 651 new-builds during the first three months of the year, which was down from 777 12 months earlier, the National House Building Council (NHBC) said.
Its latest figures also showed there were 2,831 new homes finished in the financial year April 2015/16 - up 9% from 2,598 in the previous 12 months.
Work started on 3,097 new homes during the financial year, which was an increase of 14% on the year before.
However, building groups such as the Construction Employers Federation said that approximately 11,000 new homes should be built in the province every year in order to meet demand.
Jamesy Hagan, managing director of Northern Ireland housebuilder Hagan Homes, added: "We would see the market continuing to improve, and while quarter one registrations are down, this can be influenced by build programmes.
"We would see year-on-year completion figures increasing as per the 9% increase of last year."
The company added that interest in a new £5m development close to Fairhill Crescent in Carnmoney was currently at a level "not seen since the housing crash".
And Conor Mulligan, director of Lagan Homes, said figures often contrasted with high-profile announcements of new housing developments.
In recent weeks, Fraser Homes has announced a development of up to 1,000 new houses in Newtownards, and 75 new apartments in Belfast.
Mr Mulligan added: "The difference is in the planning lag, so announcements of new housing schemes can take months - and, unfortunately, sometimes years - to transfer into the much-needed actual new houses, ready for purchase.
"We know from recent announcements from major housebuilders that more investment has been injected into the supply side. We hope that with the transfer of planning power into local hands, where it belongs, the confidence shown by those investments will sooner rather than later be reflected in the increased provision of new housing stock."
Across the UK, meanwhile, there was also a decrease in the registration of new houses during the first three months of the year - a slump of 9% from 40,144 to 36,566.