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Affordable housing is still eluding first-time buyers here

Northern Ireland has no affordable housing for first-time buyers (FTB), according to a damning new report.

Alongside London, the province is the worst area in the UK for people who are looking to get a foot on the property ladder.

It is the third year in a row that Northern Ireland has been found to have 0% of affordable housing compared to a UK average of 39%.

The grim findings are laid bare in the Halifax First Time Buyer Annual Review 2009.

Halifax economist Nitesh Patel said: “In the 10 years to Q3 2009 the average house price for a FTB in Northern Ireland as a whole had risen by 131%, faster than the increase in average annual earnings of those in full-time employment. Across local authorities in Northern Ireland the average house price is still ahead of local average earnings and hence unaffordable.”

No-one from the Department of Social Development was available to comment on the findings.

Despite lower house prices following the property collapse and reduced mortgage rates, the tightening of lending criteria since summer 2007 has prevented some FTBs from entering the house market.

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: “Housing affordability for potential first-time buyers has improved substantially over the past two years due to the combination of lower house prices and reduced mortgage rates.

“Mortgage payments in relation to earnings are currently significantly below the average during the past 25 years. The tightening in lending criteria over the past two years is, however, making it very difficult for some to take advantage of lower property prices and mortgage rates.”

The research showed that first-time buyers in Northern Ireland paid an average of £122,573 for a house compared to a UK average of £133,794. FTBs here also had to raise more money for a deposit — £29,853 compared to £29,439 for the rest of the UK.

In a further blow to first time buyers, stamp duty returned to its £125,000 threshold from £175,000 on New Year’s Day.

Belfast Telegraph