Belfast Telegraph

Funding boost for first-time buyers

First-time house buyers will be boosted by a Government decision to put an extra £10 million towards the co-ownership scheme, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has announced.

He told Assembly members that he had also received assurances from the banks that they will endeavour to provide mortgages to suit the scheme.

Mr Wilson said the additional funding, which will run for each of the next four years, will be in addition to the current annual funding of £15 million and will help 2,400 families own their own home over that period.

His announcement came as he detailed the levels of fresh funding channelled to Stormont departments in the so-called October Monitoring Round, when unspent cash is reallocated to departments viewed to be in need of additional support.

More than £70 million was redistributed by the Executive. The funding included £25 million to Health, £13. 1 million to the Department of Regional Development, £12 million for Social Development and £11.7 million for Education.

Mr Wilson said: "The increase in funding announced today is evidence of the Executive's commitment to help people take their first steps on the property ladder and stimulate some much needed activity in the local property market.

"Along with the Housing Minister Nelson McCausland I recently met with local banks and building societies to discuss how they could play their part in this initiative and we have been assured by the level of commitment and support that has been expressed."

He said the move would boost the construction industry and that it would help restore confidence in the sector "albeit in a small way - but it is a step in the right direction".

Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey said the banks should be asked to regularly report to the Assembly on the progress of the scheme.

Mr Wilson said there would be no point in government investing in co-ownership, if the banks were not prepared to lend buyers the mortgages they needed. He said representatives of the banks had, therefore, been asked to publicly state their commitment.

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