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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Government review NI house prices
Estate agent's window
Northern Ireland's house prices continue to rise steadily
The government has launched a review into how to make housing in Northern Ireland more affordable for people on low incomes and first-time buyers.

Figures released on Monday show that the average home in the province now costs almost 163,000.

Social Development Minister David Hanson said the study would look at the obstacles to home ownership.

"Access to affordable housing is critical to a person's or a family's quality of life," he said.

"Those who cannot find decent accommodation pay a high price in personal terms and this can lead to social exclusion.

"Homelessness and housing stress continue to rise and house price inflation in Northern Ireland has outstripped other parts of the UK.

"It is clear that there are some areas, mainly urban, where communities are under stress and the demographic profile is predominantly elderly or those less well off."

The review will be chaired by Sir John Semple, the former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

"The review will consider not just the problems experienced by first time buyers and low-income households attempting to enter owner-occupation but will also look at the social and private rented sectors," Sir John said.

"It has a wide remit and will consider existing policies and programmes such as the social housing development programme, co-ownership and planning policies as well as exploring innovative approaches to improve the supply of social and private housing."

The review's initial proposals will be published later this year for public consultation.

James Kerr looks at what challenges are faced

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