Belfast Telegraph

'Property bubble' warning despite rise in new homes

By Margaret Canning

The pace of house building in Northern Ireland may be catching up with Britain with registered new homes growing 15%, new figures show today.

The statistics come as the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) warned that Northern Ireland risked another "property bubble" because the pace of new house building has been so slow.

CEF managing director John Armstrong said around 5,400 houses were being built a year here, but housing growth indicators from government state that around 11,300 new houses a year were required.

Today, the National House Building Council (NHBC) said there were 806 new homes registered in Northern Ireland over the rolling quarter from June to August, compared to 700 over the same period the year before.

The region's increase was higher than the UK-wide increase of 11%, where 40,101 were registered over the quarter, compared to 36,419.

And Conor Mulligan, director of house builder Lagan Homes, said the pace of increase was still not enough.

"As a ratio of the population, England is building over 40% more houses, according to NHBC registrations, as Northern Ireland.

"Put another way, the Northern Ireland figure, while growing, would have needed to have been closer to 1,200 new houses for the three months in question to match the build rate in England on a population basis.

"That is based on England having a population of 53m compared to Northern Ireland's 1.83m population."

Mr Armstrong of the CEF said lack of bank finance was among the factors holding back house builders in Northern Ireland. He said the economic downturn had resulted in the departure of some household name builders from the sector but that new operators were emerging.

"But the stark reality and frustrating reality is that we are not building anything like the level of houses which we need," said Mr Armstrong.

In the UK as a whole, NHBC registrations for the month of August alone were down by 6% to 10,362 compared to 11,037 in August 2014, the first monthly fall since January this year. And public sector registrations were down 23%, while private sector homes fell by just 1%.

NHBC chief executive Mike Quinton said the fall in public and affordable homes could be down to housing associations "holding back on developments in light of welfare reforms and the cap on rental increases".

Belfast Telegraph