Northern Ireland now the cheapest place in the UK for private home rentals
Weekly rent in the private housing sector in Northern Ireland is nearly 40% cheaper than the UK average, according to the latest government housing statistics.
The Department for Social Development said median weekly rent here was £92 - £35 below the UK average.
The next highest was Wales, where weekly rent was £100, followed by Scotland at £108 and England at £133.
And the Northern Ireland Housing Statistics 2014-15 report also showed that just 38% of private sector tenants in Northern Ireland were paying £100 or more per week, compared to 71% of private renters in the UK.
The figures are based on a sample of under 2,000 households who took part in the Family Resources Survey.
However, separate figures have shown a strong disparity in private sector rents across council areas here.
According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the highest weekly rent is paid in south Belfast, at a rate of £179 per week, while the lowest rents are paid on one-bed properties in Causeway Coast and Glens, where the figure is £87.50.
Rents were also lower in the social rented sector - but the differential with the UK was slimmer.
In Northern Ireland, the weekly social rented price was £69, which was £15 or 21.7% lower than the UK average of £84.
The statistics also showed growing demand for mortgages last year, reflecting the improving housing market.
Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics said the average house price here was £162,000.
There were 7,500 first-time buyer mortgages and 5,500 home mover mortgages in the province in 2014 - up 25% for first-time buyers and up by over a third for home movers. Mortgage repossession cases in the High Court had also fallen by a third to 2,393.
Nicola McCrudden, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland, said the mortgage figures showed the market was responding to growing demand.
"The market is beginning to move again which is good news for people wanting to sell, particularly those in negative equity," she added,
But she also said the problem of a lack of new houses was persisting. In the year, there were 5,506 new home completions recorded by Building Control, up 4% on the previous year.
Ms McCrudden added: "According to the Regional Development Strategy, we need to build around 11,200 new homes every year.
"In 2014-15 there were 5,506 new homes completed - a modest increase of 4%.
"This increase is largely due to private owners and speculative development.
"In the social housing sector, while a number of housing associations are performing well, overall the number of new homes completed fell by 16% to 1,658."
She also said housing should be "higher up the political agenda", adding: "The Northern Ireland Assembly must tackle head on the chronic housing supply shortage. We cannot continue with a dysfunctional housing market that works for some and not all."
There have been signs that banks are starting to lend money more readily to developers of new houses after some years of shying away from such projects.
And this week, Braidwater Homes in Co Londonderry became the first company to win a multi-million investment from the Business Growth Fund, interpreted as a vote of confidence in the sector.
Our most expensive council areas for private rents of a one-bed property per month in the first half of 2015, according to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's rental index
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