House price rises shatter all records
New plan to help poor and first time buyers
Northern Ireland's house prices are now rising faster that at any time since records began over 30 years ago, it emerged today.
The average cost of a house is now over £200,000.
The latest figures from the Nationwide House Price Report showed the average home here costs £203,815 - up by 57.6% on last year.
These are the first figures of the year and quarterly house price growth is already at 14.6% - significantly more than the annual 10-12% predicted by experts at the beginning of 2007.
And the record-breaking house prices are the fastest growing since 1973 when the average price was just £7,952. Ten years later and the house prices were still an affordable £24,449. In 1993 the average house cost £35,837 and in 2003 they were going for £94,028.
The news comes as the Government released The Review Into Affordable Housing - a high-powered report aimed at helping disadvantaged people with housing.
The review, conducted by former senior civil servant Sir John Semple, recommends more new houses and increased powers for planners and the Housing Executive.
Sir John's report proposes a review of house building targets which he claimed "may be too low", the streamlining of the planning process, fast-tracking of important housing developments and better use of available land, including greenfield sites.
Today, Belfast is the number one 'hottest regional city' in the UK with prices up 61% - average house price £262,965 - beating off places like Norwich, and the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge as well as Carlisle.
Not surprisingly, Belfast is the most the most expensive place to buy a house in Northern Ireland, with the west of the province the cheapest.
And while the province has been experiencing phenomenal house price growth in recent years it had remained relatively affordable. Now, however, Northern Ireland is the fourth dearest place to buy a house in the UK. Only London (£280,995), its outskirts (Outer Metropolitan £245,010) and the south east (Outer South East £204,371) cost more for property than here.
And unlike anywhere else in the UK, both Northern Ireland and London are bucking the national trend for a cooling off in the market.
Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "Northern Ireland and London stand out as the leaders with the fastest annual rates of house price growth in the UK."
But even the UK capital could not match the province in terms of house price growth with a yearly increase of 14.3% and quarterly rise of 4.4%.
Ms Earley said: "Northern Ireland made housing market history in the first quarter of 2007 with the fastest annual rate of growth anywhere in the UK since Nationwide records began in 1973. Prices in the province are still accelerating too, increasing by 14.6% during the first quarter, faster than anywhere else in the UK."
The Nationwide economist put the province's relentless property price boom down to a strong regional economy, the peace dividend, increased migration and investment, new jobs and the 'Celtic Tiger' effect.
"The strength of the Northern Irish market has exceeded all expectations in spite of the recent economic success of the province," said Ms Earley, who added the province has one of the strongest regional economies alongside London.
"The benefits of peace in Northern Ireland should not be discounted," said the economist. "House prices have increased by 281% since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 compared to the UK average of 179%."
Despite this, however, the speedy rate of growth is predicted not to last: " While additional confidence in the province may grow out of the latest political agreements, continued growth of this level is unlikely to be sustained for long and such rapid growth in house prices might suggest that this market is more vulnerable than some other parts of the UK," said Ms Earley.