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Northern Ireland home ownership drops by 10.5% in a decade

By John Mulgrew and PA

Published 03/08/2016

Home ownership figures have been in decline since the early 2000s, with NI being worst affected
Home ownership figures have been in decline since the early 2000s, with NI being worst affected

The number of people owning their homes in Northern Ireland has dropped by 10.5% in 10 years — the largest fall of any UK region.

The Resolution Foundation found that the proportion of people owning their own home has plummeted across every part of the UK since their peak in the early 2000s.

And Northern Ireland has seen the biggest fall of any of the home nations, with home ownership sinking 10.5% from its November 2006 peak of 73.5%.

Estate agent Simon Brien said: “The Northern Ireland property dimension is different to other places in the UK.

“From 2000 to 2007, Northern Ireland saw house prices double at the peak of the market... from 2007 to 2014 there was a major decline.

“Therefore, many prospective first-time buyers decided not to buy, but choose to rent because of uncertainty.”

But he said the market had witnessed the “first phase of recovery” at the end of 2013.

Average house prices rose by 1.8% across the province from a year ago to £128,562, according to the latest house price index from Nationwide.

Meanwhile, ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level since 1986 as soaring prices force millions to abandon their dreams of buying their own place.

The think-tank said the figures show the longed talked-about London housing crisis has spread, with regions in the north and the Midlands becoming increasingly unaffordable.

In England, house ownership rates have fallen 7% from a peak of 70.8% in April 2003 to 63.8% in February 2016, while across the UK it has dropped 6.8% from its October 2004 peak of 70.9%.

The largest fall is in Greater Manchester which has seen home ownership sink 14.5% from 72.4% in April 2003 to 57.9% in February this year.

The foundation said the findings suggest that figures showing home ownership increased in 2014 for the first time in a decade was “likely a blip” and the overall trend of decline is continuing.

Stephen Clarke, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “London has a well-known and fully-blown housing crisis, but the struggle to buy a home is just as big a problem in cities across the north of England.

“The chances of owning a home have fallen fastest in Greater Manchester over the last decade, though the Leeds and Sheffield city areas have also experienced sharp drops.”

Mr Clarke said renters face higher living costs in the long run and find it harder to build up a nest-egg later on in life.

“These drops are more than a simple source of frustration for the millions of people who aspire to own their home. The shift to renting privately can reduce current living standards and future wealth, with implications for individuals and the state.

“We cannot allow other cities to edge towards the kind of housing crisis that London has been saddled with.”

Scotland has seen rates fall 5.6% from its October 2004 high of 69.1% and in Wales they have dropped 5.1% from 74.8% in May 2006 to 69.6% in February 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken of the need to tackle the housing crisis, warning that unless more is done, prices will continue to rise and the divide between those who inherit and those who do not will become deeper.

Mr Clarke urged Mrs May to deliver on her promise to tackle the housing deficit.

“She may find that making good on this promise could secure as important a legacy as negotiating a successful exit from the European Union,” he said.

Anne Baxendale, head of policy and public affairs at the housing charity Shelter, said: “With house prices now completely out of step with average wages, sadly it’s no surprise that home ownership across the country is declining so drastically.”

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