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Fears red tape holding back housing industry in Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

Published 29/01/2016

Northern Ireland has greatly disadvantaged itself in its approach to new housing, according to a major housebuilder
Northern Ireland has greatly disadvantaged itself in its approach to new housing, according to a major housebuilder

Northern Ireland has greatly disadvantaged itself in its approach to new housing, according to a major housebuilder.

The industry was responding to the Housing Supply Forum report, commissioned by the Department for Social Development (DSD).

It said not enough houses were being built and that regulatory burdens were putting off construction, growth and investment.

The report said it was "concerned at the potential that this failure in supply could have in terms of creating another house price 'bubble'". The forum was set up by DSD to examine why not enough social and private houses were being built in Northern Ireland.

And the report said there was greater recognition of the importance of overall housing supply in other parts of the UK.

The range of initiatives in England "demonstrates the more joined-up approach to the delivery of housing in some parts of Great Britain".

Conor Mulligan, head of Lagan Homes in Northern Ireland, said there were barriers to housebuilding which did not exist in other parts of the UK.

The regulatory issues raised in the report included the cost of bonds, building regulations and the planning process. Mr Mulligan said: "The report shows that Northern Ireland has greatly disadvantaged itself." And he claimed the report "does not make wonderful reading for the government".

"Amongst other things, it highlights the range of regulatory burdens placed on employers and investors in Northern Ireland which deter rather than promote construction, growth and investment."

The report said it aimed to address a growing shortfall in supply. There were only 4,415 new homes started in 2013/14, compared with 14,000 started at the height of the market in 2006/7.

The report also said fewer companies were building houses, with only four building more than 100 units per year during 2014, compared with 14 in 2006.

That would have implications for supply in future, and could contribute to another housing bubble.

John Armstrong, head of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) and chairman of the forum, said: "In Northern Ireland we are currently not building enough houses. Failure to address this deficit will have serious social and economic consequences. We hope that the recommendations of our report, if adopted, will help to rectify this shortfall."

Social Development Minister Maurice Morrow said his department will now consider the findings of the report.

Numbers of types of houses built in 2015, compared with 2014 (2014 given first)

Detached 781, 909

Semi-detached 1,000, 1,335

Terraced 380, 419

Flats/Maisonettes 254, 441

Bungalows 72, 119

Belfast Telegraph

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