First-time buyer levels in Northern Ireland are at their lowest in 26 years, the Council of Mortgage Lenders has revealed.
Derek Wilson, chairman of CML Northern Ireland, urged the newly-formed Northern Ireland Assembly to tackle the shortage of affordable homes which has helped fuel spiralling house price inflation over recent years.
House prices have trebled in 10 years, and the number of first-time buyers has more than halved, from 18,300 to just 8,000 in just five years.
The average house price in Northern Ireland is currently 210,349, which is even higher than the UK average 205,797.
The number of first-time buyers has fallen from 18,300 in 2001 to just 8,000 in 2006.
Wilson says: Over the past year house prices in Northern Ireland have outstripped the rate of increase in other areas of the UK.
It is no surprise that with house price inflation reaching 23.4% in 2006 we now have the lowest number of first-time buyers entering the market since 1980.
The CML urges the Northern Ireland Assembly to address affordability constraints by implementing some of the reforms proposed in Sir John Semples report on affordable housing.
This includes increasing the supply of affordable housing and examining whether a shared equity scheme, like HomeBuy, could play a part in helping more first-time buyers on to the property ladder.
Mortgage lenders already offer a range of innovative products to help people buy their first home, but they cannot solve the affordability issue on their own.
The CML looks forward to working with the Northern Ireland Executive and the Social Development Committee to find ways of helping those who want to become home owners.