House builds on the rise
The number of new houses completed in Northern Ireland shot up by 50% during the spring of this year.
The Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin revealed that just under 2,000 homes were built in the second quarter of 2013.
The bulletin, produced each quarter by the Department for Social Development, analysed house construction from April to June.
It showed that of the total 1999 homes built, 133 dwellings fell within the social housing category being constructed by housing associations, while some 1866 were completed by private developers.
Housing Minister Nelson McCausland welcomed the figures.
He said it "confirms an improving housing market".
The document confirmed that new dwelling starts over the April to June period reached 1,141 – up 15% over the same period last year.
It also pointed out that the 1,999 built marked a 50% increase over the same quarter in 2012.
"Whilst these figures are still significantly down on the peak of 2005-6, they offer hope of a sustainable return to growth in housing supply," said Mr McCausland.
The bulletin showed a halt in the decline of house prices "with a small increase over the quarter".
The minister added: "The Help To Buy scheme will increase the availability of 95% mortgages throughout the UK, for both first-time buyers and movers, further improving access to the market and supporting confidence."
He added that further support was available to first-time buyers through the Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association.
The quarterly review highlighted that 540 homes had been purchased so far this year through the scheme, while a further 650 applications were currently in the system.
It also noted that the number of households presenting as homeless had fallen by 6% from April to June.
Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey has been encouraged by the signs "that the local housebuilding sector appears to have joined the wider economic recovery".
Maintaining though that the recovery was much more evident in the number of homes completed than those started, he said: "This suggests housebuilders have been finishing off partially completed housing units, which may have been left unfinished for quite some time, as opposed to starting to build from scratch".