Ulster Bank 'Opens Door To Homebuyers'

A massive half billion pounds has been pledged to beleaguered first-time buyers trying to get a foot on the rung for homeownership.

Ulster Bank is to commit £500m of new mortgage lending to the Northern Ireland housing market over the next 12 months.

In what will be a clear boost for the construction sector - which continues to endure hard times - the bank said it was committed to increasing its level of mortgage lending further.

In January the bank reaffirmed its commitment to offering shared equity co-ownership mortgages.

The news came after it was revealed that, in 2009, the bank lent more than £400m in new mortgages, which included a 600% increase in lending to the first time buyer market.

However, the bank reported a loss of £368m for 2009, compared with a profit of £218m in 2008.

Ulster Bank's Chief Executive of Retail Markets, Mike Bamber, said, "2009 was a busy year".
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"We think that lending more than £400m to the Northern Ireland mortgage market in 2009 was a significant achievement, given the economic and market conditions," he said.

The UK taxpayer owns 84% of Ulster Bank owner, RBS after the Government bailed out the bank at the end of 2008.

There are 91 branches of the Ulster Bank in NI and 146 in the Republic.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Stormont, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have been continually pressing the banks to free-up more money for mortgages and for commercial finance purposes.

Commenting last summer on the continued series of meetings Mr Robinson said: "These meetings provide us with the opportunity to convey first-hand the difficulties households are facing in the depressed housing market in the current economic climate.

"We are still concerned about reports that credit may not be getting to local businesses despite the positive messages that the banks have conveyed to us," he said, noting that they hoped that a continued commitment is shown to lending to local businesses.

See: Bankers Get Further Executive Grilling


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