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University's Real Estate Initiative Says Detail Of UK 'Help To Buy Scheme' Will Be Critical

More detail is required about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plans to extend shared equity scheme before it can be properly assessed, a senior University of Ulster academic claimed today.

As policymakers gathered for a meeting of the University's Real Estate Initiative on the Belfast campus which considered George Osborne's Budget measures to boost first-time buyers entering the housing market, Professor Alastair Adair said there was a need to get below the headlines to find out how the shared equity schemes would sit alongside Northern Ireland's successful Co-Ownership Scheme.

"Help to buy schemes such as these provide additional finance and can potentially restore confidence in the market," the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor Development said.

"However to properly assess this measure, we need to get more information about how the shared equity schemes will operate.

"Northern Ireland already has a very successful Co-Ownership Scheme which the Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has allocated additional funding to.

"We need to see how this will sit alongside the Co-Ownership Scheme because the last thing we would want is confusion among the public about both schemes.

"It is only when we crunch into the detail that we can properly assess whether this Budget announcement is workable."

Chancellor Osborne'sHelp-To-Buy scheme will enable first-time buyers to put down a 5% deposit on a home which could mean a £5,000 deposit on average in Northern Ireland.

Buyers may also be eligible for an equity loan, worth up to 20% of the value of the property, which is interest free for the first five years.

However Professor Adair said: "It will take some months to design and put the new 'Help to Buy' scheme in place, so the benefits will not be immediate.

"Certainly, on initial impressions, the scale of the 'Help to Buy' initiative is impressive, with £3.5 billion being allocated for equity loans alone and £12 billion of mortgage guarantees being provided."

The University of Ulster's Real Estate Initiative brings together leading policymakers, financiers and investors from across the island of Ireland to promote research that informs policy and provides an evidence base to assess the performance of the property market.

It was launched in February 2008 by the renowned architect Dr Daniel Libeskind at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and is based in the School of the Built Environment.

The University of Ulster's Real Estate Initiative is the first of its kind in Ireland and is based on a successful model developed by Harvard University Graduate School of Design, with whom the School of the Built Environment has developed a close relationship in terms of collaborative research and teaching.

Professor Adair said: "A healthy property market is essential for economic growth and wellbeing.

"There is no doubt in Northern Ireland we need to restore confidence in the market. While the number of transactions are increasing, prices are still soft - reflecting the difficulties of obtaining finance and market uncertainty due to distressed sales and repossessions.

"As transactions increase, prices will stabilise but we need more controlled finance coming into the market to support demand."