Belfast Telegraph

Recovery of housing market an 'economic success story for Northern Ireland'

John Marr
John Marr
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The recovery of the housing market has been one of Northern Ireland's key economic success stories, a mortgage expert has said.

John Marr, who heads up devolved government and social housing at UK Finance, was among the industry leaders who addressed this week's Finance Festival in Belfast.

UK Finance, which represents around 250 firms across the UK banking and financial services sector, hosted the two-day event.

The trade body meets four times a year in Belfast through its dedicated mortgages policy committee and a new stakeholder group which examines the state of Northern Ireland's mortgage sector.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, finance expert Mr Marr stressed that while uncertainty hangs over the economy as a result of Brexit and the absence of a devolved government, the domestic mortgage market has been somewhat shielded from the impact seen in other areas.

"The performance of the market to date has been very strong. The housing market in Northern Ireland has been very successful and has come back very strongly," he explained.

The affordability of housing helped boost the market for Northern Ireland's new home owners, with first-time buyers having now reached 10,500, the highest since 2004.

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Mr Marr said that while co-ownership schemes are helping people here onto the property ladder, Northern Ireland lacks the breadth of direct government support available in other parts of the UK.

"Without that level of support, the market in Northern Ireland is still performing exceptionally well," he added.

"You are getting record numbers of first-time buyers coming through even without that support, which is a positive."

Recent surveys on the construction sector has shown private housing as a shining beacon for the building industry.

But the mortgage expert added that the important role Northern Ireland's housing associations have played should not be discounted.

Mr Marr also said the concept of mixed-tenure housing developments was a key topic explored during this week's finance festival.

"As we go forward, we don't see huge mono-tenure developments made up of private homes or social housing," he said.

"In future I think it will be much more mixed together for a new way to create vibrant and viable communities.

"We don't know what's going to happen, particularly in terms of how the UK's relationship with Europe pans out, but notwithstanding that the signs are still positive.

"Northern Ireland's housing market has been a huge success story and is very much a comeback story."

Belfast Telegraph