Northern Ireland recovery 'steady' as new home builds rise up to eight-year high
There were nearly 2,000 new house builds recorded in Northern Ireland during the first quarter of 2018, the highest start to the year in almost a decade.
The statistics, released by the Department of Finance, showed that there were 1,961 new homes started in Northern Ireland during the first quarter of this year, which one economist said reflected a "slow and steady recovery" in the market.
But Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said the growth was still "subdued".
"The latest figures for the first quarter point to a continued recovery. There were almost 2,000 (1,961) housing starts in the first quarter which represented the best start to a year since 2010," he said.
"Housing starts were 4% higher than the corresponding period last year.
"Completed dwellings rose by 15% which again marked the highest figure in eight years.
"Over 7,000 housing units have been completed over the last four quarters and 2018 looks set to see the most completed dwellings since 2009."
Mr Ramsey said the market crash had brought with it a 70% slump in the building of new homes between 2006 and 2011.
"Since then, however, a much smaller housebuilding sector has experienced a slow and steady recovery," he added.
"Last year marked a seven-year high for both housing starts and house completions. Despite this recovery, the level of housebuilding remains subdued by historical standards.
"Indeed, 2017's figures were still less than half of the pre-downturn highs."
Other findings in the research, which takes into account information obtained by Land and Property Services (LPS), showed that Derry City and Strabane was the area with the most activity in the market.
"The Derry City and Strabane Council area was the most active for housing starts in Q1 2018, with over 300 starts. This represented a whopping 343% increase on the same period a year ago," said Mr Ramsey.
"Belfast recorded a more modest increase of 13%."
Derry City and Strabane also recorded the strongest growth year-on-year in completed units. But its 176 finished homes were still behind Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon's (ABC) total of 198.
Lisburn and Castlereagh also notched up 183 completed units.
However, ABC and Lisburn and Castlereagh had seen a fall in completions of nearly 25% year-on-year. Belfast's 121 completions were up by a third over the year.