‘North coast house prices driving locals out’ says Sugden

Ministers are being urged to step in and tackle surging house prices across Northern Ireland’s north coast, which are leaving many locals with no option but to move.

East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden said sales and rental prices are now “prohibitively expensive” for the vast number of residents in towns such as Portstewart, Portrush, Castlerock and beyond.

“This trend has been seen for many years,” Ms Sugden commented.

“During the previous boom, house prices here far outstripped those in the rest of Northern Ireland as well.

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“It has happened again. Prices are being driven by a number of factors, not least the prevalence of second homes and cash buyers from other parts of the UK and Ireland.

“Many landlords who may have previously rented properties long-term are choosing to take advantage of higher prices and sell, with others moving into the holiday lets market.

“The result is that there are very few houses to rent and those that exist – or are for sale – are beyond reach for many who live and work in the area.”

The local MLA said increasing numbers of second homes can have “big knock-on effects on public services”.

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“For instance, if young families are increasingly unable to find properties in a town, then local schools can become under-prescribed, potentially even leading to closure in the long-term,” she continued.

“This kind of trend can affect a variety of services so a long-term plan is needed to prevent this from happening.”

The poor provision of private and social housing was also a major factor in what Ms Sugden called the “housing crisis” on the north coast.

“This area is crying out for more houses – both in the private and social sector,” she continued. “Developers must be encouraged to build here, with ministers taking the lead to ensure this happens.

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“We also need to see more social housing projects being targeted here.

“What has traditionally been an issue mainly for coastal and tourist towns is now spreading to nearby towns such as Coleraine.

“Locals are finding it increasingly difficult to find, let alone afford, houses in the towns they have spent their entire lives in.

“Various options exist for the Executive and for ministers to pursue, yet little has been done, despite me having repeatedly brought this to their attention.

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“While prices continue to rise elsewhere, and people struggle to put food on the table and heat their homes, people here are now discovering that their very homes are being threatened by high prices.

“The government needs to listen to the difficulties being experienced in this area – and in others across Northern Ireland.

“Something has to change if we are to enable people to afford homes in their own town,” the MLA concluded.