Concern for Northern Ireland housebuilding targets over lack of new sewerage systems
The building of new homes in Northern Ireland has been held up by the lack of funding for new water infrastructure, a housing boss has said.
According to the Department for Communities, the number of new dwellings started over July to September was 1,922, down 14% on the same quarter a year earlier.
Out of the 1,922, 1,715 were houses being built for the private sector.
However, building control completions were up 6.4% to 1,817, compared to the year before.
And figures for the previous quarter have show an even steeper drop of 28% in new dwelling starts on the year before.
The downward trend comes two months after NI Water warned it needed £2.5bn to hold off an infrastructure crisis which could hold up housebuilding.
At the time its chairman Dr Len O'Hagan said that its waste water infrastructure was "getting ready to burst at the seams" due to under-investment.
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He said there were already 99 treatment works at locations around Northern Ireland - including Larne, Omagh, Saintfield and Limavady - which were almost at capacity.
Justin Cartwright, NI national director at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the figures were "concerning" after a period of increase in new homes driven by private sector development.
"These figures show a disappointing couple of quarters over the spring and summer, dropping back to a level of activity seen four years ago," he said.
"Official estimates suggest Northern Ireland needs around 7,200 homes each year to keep up with things like population growth and demolition of older housing. This is a conservative figure, but one that we're now on course to miss this financial year, which could impact on prices."
Mr Cartwright added lack of investment in new waste water infrastructure such as sewers was starting to affect building.
"No housebuilding can be carried out in areas where sewage treatment works are at capacity, and without greater investment the issue will only get worse," he said.
"The lack of this infrastructure that enables new housing developments is worrying. We need an Executive back to ensure that NI Water is adequately funded."
According to the Department for Communities' housing bulletin, the price of new dwellings had increased to £180,800 over July to September. That was up 1.2% on the quarter before and up 7.5% year-on-year.