Lower incomes fuel growth in demand for co-ownership
Demand for local shared ownership housing has grown by 7% to reach 500 applications in the past year. Co-Ownership Housing said the number of properties brought through the scheme from April to August this year was 303, an increase of 11% on the 273 recorded over the same period during the previous 12 months.
Mark Graham, chief executive of the regional body - which was set up in 1978 to help people get on the property ladder - said low salaries and high deposits had fuelled the increase.
The figures were released as the organisation prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
It will also be highlighting its activities during Shared Ownership Month in September.
Co-ownership allows homeowners to purchase a property through a shared scheme in which they pay both rent and a mortgage - usually at a cheaper rate than renting or buying.
Mr Graham said co-ownership brought with it many benefits.
"We know that struggling to raise deposits and lower incomes in Northern Ireland are fuelling demand for co-ownership," he added.
"Buying through co-ownership is cheaper than renting and more affordable than placing a significant deposit on a property.
"Additionally, customers can buy co-ownership out at any time they want through the 'staircasing' process, which we actively encourage."
The chief executive said a typical co-ownership homeowner was 30 years old and that the age profile was increasing. Applications are evenly split between couples and single buyers.
"We also get more families because the age is increasing and we are finding that we aren't just getting applications from first-time buyers," he added.
"They could have already owned property but, due to relationship breakdowns or other reasons, are buying another property with us."
The organisation said that more than 8,000 residences here were co-ownership homes, with a further 900 to be added by March of next year as the group funds further purchases.
Co-ownership has supported more than 26,000 households to purchase a home over the past 40 years.
"It is our goal to support as many people as we can to get on to the property ladder in Northern Ireland," Mr Graham said.
Shared Ownership Month will see Co-Ownership Housing host a series of drop-in sessions across Northern Ireland to support and advise on the range of products available to help them get on the path to becoming homeowners.
The drop-in sessions are free to attend. They are taking place at City Hotel in Londonderry on Thursday, the Cohannon Inn in Dungannon on September 14, and at Co-Ownership Housing's offices at Murray House in Belfast on September 21.
Caroline and Lemond Kirton had been renting for 10 years and believed they were priced out of the property market until two years ago, when they saw a financial advisor who advised them to apply for co-ownership.
"We didn't want to be renting our whole lives and not have anything to show for it," said Caroline. "At first we didn't realise we could afford a mortgage. We took a five-year fixed mortgage deal and the interest rate we got with the bank is great.
"The process was very smooth and we have already recommended it to others. We love it. You get a totally different sense of being when it is your own home."
The couple plan to invest in the property over the next two years, after which they will begin the 'staircasing' process of buying it.