Business

Report sets out ways to fix north's 'broken' housing market

The Lloyds report calls on Stormont to work through local apprenticeship providers, universities, and further education colleges to secure the next generation of skilled workers
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's housing market is "broken" according to a new report, with a lack of diversity in stock, a shortage of skilled workers and housing professionals - and one of the worst negative equity problems in the UK.

And although recommendations have been made to address the issues the market faces, the report says any effort from the housing industry "needs to be matched by political will", which currently isn't forthcoming given the Stormont paralysis.

The report - entitled ‘A Housing Market that Works: Delivering for Everyone in Northern Ireland' - was produced by Lloyds Banking Group the the back of a round-table discussion in Belfast in March with 17 local housing experts.

Lloyds, the north's second largest financial services employer with nearly 2,000 staff and which contributes £150 million directly into the local economy, has stressed the need for a more effective housing market that works for developers and builders, and in which home-owners, renters and social renters receive the support they need.

The report says that while the local skills base has been "resilient", a shortage of skilled workers has the potential to hamper the north's housing sector.

It points out: "Young people aren't encouraged to pursue careers in construction, and we have a habit of shipping construction skills elsewhere.

"We also have a shortage of skilled planners in Northern Ireland, the number of course places for architecture students has been cut, and there may not be enough people qualified for housing management roles in the future."

It recommends that existing and future NI Executive policy should support the construction industry to take on more apprentices and trainees, and that universities should invest to provide more places for planning, architecture and housing students.

The report claimed local policy was too focused on social housing provision, suggesting instead that the market should focus on all tenure types – including private housing, private rented, co-ownership and social housing.

"Such an over-emphasis on social housing could actually create a social housing problem, and NI Executive policy should focus on promoting/

delivering all tenure types," it adds.

Mortgage availability in Northern Ireland was viewed as “a good news story” but there was some concern that property prices might get too high.

The report said the north has one of the worst negative equity problems in the UK, and NI Executive housing policy should seek to help home-owners facing this situation.

Jim McCooe, Lloyds Banking Group's ambassador for Northern Ireland, said: “These findings clearly show that we must work on the whole mix of tenure types to improve the Northern Ireland housing market.

“While the Housing Executive's focus on social housing is understandable, more attention needs to be paid to other forms of housing provision as well as the skills provision in the supply chain. Without this focus, the local market will continue to face challenges."

He added: “The imagination and will to create a fair and prosperous housing market exists, but this must be matched by political will if we are to see real change.

"What we now need is a stable, devolved government at Stormont to start working with the sector to help deliver an improved local housing market.”

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