YOUNG people in Northern Ireland are ‘nearing points of despair’ because soaring house prices are preventing them from clambering onto the property ladder, SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell told a Westminster debate yesterday, adding that the province is in the grip of an affordable housing crisis. He urged the Government to introduce new rules to oblige developers to build affordable homes as part of their multi-million pound projects. Good idea. Now all we have to do is stop property speculators and landlords like, er, Alasdair McDonnell buying them and pushing the price of terraces up! Is a ‘social democrat’ like Alasdair really going to legislate against market forces? Assuming it’s even possible, I doubt it. Meanwhile, a new University of Ulster survey reveals that, as the average price of a traditional two-up, two-down house increased by 42% in 2006 to an average £160,782 – the kind of dwelling favoured by first-time buyers – it makes a bit of a mockery of the Government’s Co-ownership Scheme, aimed at helping them get on the property ladder. It’s maximum value limit is just £150,000 – ten grand less than is any real use.