New CIS report shows alarming drop in housing starts across Northern Ireland

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There are no signs of an end to Northern Ireland’s acute housing crisis with a new report showing significant declines in the numbers of year-on-year planning permission submissions, approvals and project commencements across the region.

In a survey by the Construction Employers Federation earlier this year homebuilders claim that wastewater capacity constraints in Northern Irelandare holding up some 8,450 homes equating to just under £1bn of investment. When the proposals of housing associations and other developers are factored in this brings the total of homes unable to proceed to approximately 19,000.

These claims are supported by a new report from Construction Information Services (CIS) which reveals that during the first half of 2024, only 1,577 new homes were started in Northern Ireland. This represents just 27% of last year’s total housing output.

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In terms of new investment, last year Northern Ireland saw 99 new housing projects start, comprising 6,408 new homes. At the halfway point of 2024, 46 new housing developments have got underway, but the 1,693 homes they represent account for only 26% of 2023’s figures.

CIS Commercial Director, Dave Thompson.CIS Commercial Director, Dave Thompson.
CIS Commercial Director, Dave Thompson.

The report indicates an even bleaker situation for apartment units, where new investment in 2023 led to 2,100 apartment units getting underway, whereas projects started in 2024 have resulted in only 381 units so far.

CIS Commercial Director, Dave Thompson says: NI Water, the public body that maintains our water supply and infrastructure, has said that limits to its funding mean that it can’t provide the infrastructure to support housing developments. We can see the impact that these issues are having already in Q1/Q2 2024 with significant reductions in housing activity apart from student accommodation with 765 student beds under construction and another 499 approved.

“While planning approvals in 2024 hint at potential overall recovery, with 218 residential projects totalling 3,334 units approved, it remains uncertain how many of these will commence construction this year”, says Mr Thompson.

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Noteworthy residential projects granted planning permission in the first half of this year include, a mixed social/affordable development comprising 126 units in Ballymoney and a 205-unit residential apartment development in Belfast by Artemis Developments Limited. Meanwhile, an appeal is underway for a 354-bed student accommodation scheme on the same site.

The new CIS Insights’ report shows a growing trend towards repurposing office spaces for student housing, exemplified by the redevelopment of the former Movie House site on Belfast’s Dublin Road by Queen’s University. This shift is largely driven by the rise of home working post-Covid.

Construction Information Services (CIS) has been providing reliable, verified, and real-time insight and intelligence on the Irish construction sector for more than 50 years. ​

The Irish market leader's research teams, based in Banbridge and Dublin, combine ongoing outbound outreach with the latest technology to deliver trusted information that helps business or organisations make informed decisions.​

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Its services are used by blue chip brands in the private and public sectors throughout the island of Ireland. ​

At any one time, subscribers can access information on around 140,000 construction projects in NI and RoI.

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