Séan Neeson MLA stated: “There has been a consistent decrease in housing output for each of the past four quarters. The decrease in housing has been offset partially by an increase in infrastructure output over the same period. In its most recent quarterly economic review, the Ulster Bank quoted some important Northern Ireland construction industry statistics.
One of the issues that was raised in the Ulster Bank review is that the Northern Ireland economy is in recession and is expected to contract by 1·5% in 2009. The review states that Northern Ireland ‘s key trading partners – the US , the UK , the European Union, and the Republic of Ireland – are all in, or are entering, recession.
The Northern Ireland housing and construction downturn has triggered the slowdown, which has spread to other services. In September this year, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose at its fastest rate since 1986. The Northern Ireland economy began its current economic slowdown before that of the UK , and its property downturn triggered a slowdown in the construction sector.
” Northern Ireland ‘s property bubble would have deflated of its own accord; however, the credit crunch has exacerbated the downturn and will delay recovery.
“By the end of 2009, it is anticipated that the average house price will be around 40% below the August 2007 peak. In 2009, house completions are set to fall by around 5,000, which will be below the previous low in 1983 and will be more than 70% less than the peak in 2006. That is why it is vital that the Executive, along with the Minister for Social Development, accelerate the building of social housing in Northern Ireland .
“The Alliance Party has warned against talking down the economy in the short term. The party has also warned against the economy’s total reliance on the public sector, construction and retail in the long term. That was never sustainable; a point that has now been fully vindicated.
“The value of land increased substantially and at an unsustainable rate. A number of developers purchased land at very high cost and are now faced with that so-called asset decreasing in value on a daily basis. The banks must take some responsibility to safeguard the interests of homeowners, particularly young people who have bought homes for the first time.
“I would also appeal to the Stormont Executive. They have a responsibility to bring forward some of the major projects that are in the pipeline. Urgent decisions are needed in that regard.”