Fears housing recovery 'running out of steam' as Northern Ireland new home starts down by 15%
Work started on 1,723 new homes in Northern Ireland in the third quarter of the year, latest figures show.
Land and Property Services' new dwelling statistics said that was a fall of 15% on the same quarter in 2016.
Of all district council areas, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon claimed the largest number of new housing starts at 271, up 5% on July to September in 2016.
But Belfast claimed the fewest housebuilding starts at 96, which was down 48% year on year.
However, the number of new home completions across the province was up 4.3% during the quarter to 1,616.
Ards and North Down reported the highest number of completions, at 235, while Mid-East Antrim recorded the lowest number of finished new homes at just 70.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the housebuilding sector had been recovering over the last few years after the property bubble burst a decade ago. He commented: "Housing starts plummeted in 2008 and reached a low of just over 5,000 units in 2013. This represented a fall of two-thirds relative to 2005's peak of 15,300.
"Since 2013, a depleted number of house builders have contributed to a 55% rise in housing start numbers."
He said that over the 12 months to the third quarter, there had been 7,800 new starts - still half the number of 2005 before the housing market crash.
Mr Ramsey added that recent house price growth could be partly attributed to the soaring cost of new homes - up around 18.5% year on year - as not enough were being built.
And he said that the figures suggested the recent recovery in housebuilding could be "running out of steam", with quarter three the quietest third quarter in three years.