UK housing rents
House prices are spiralling in the UK, due to a housing shortage and intense demand.Reuters

Lending to buy-to-let property investors is rocketing, as people look to make money off the back of the UK's housing crisis.

The Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML) said 15,600 buy-to-let loans were made during June, amounting to £2.2bn (€2.76bn, $3.7bn). Annually, this is a 23% leap in the number of loans, and a 38% jump in their value.

This is more than half the amount which was lent to first-time buyers scrambling to secure a footing on the property ladder, amid a shortage of affordable homes and spiralling house prices.

There were 28,600 first-time buyer loans in June: a 19% increase on June 2013. By value, loans rose by 27% to £4.2bn.

Buy-to-let investors are chasing gains from higher house prices and rents, both of which are rising more quickly than wages.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the average price of a UK home rose 10.5% over the year to May 2014, hitting £262,000. And private rents are going up by 1% annually. But pay, excluding bonuses, is increasing at an annual rate of just 0.7%.

House prices are rising rapidly because of the sharp imbalance between supply and demand. Low interest rates, a recovering economy, and schemes such as the UK government's Help to Buy program have driven up demand by making mortgages easier and cheaper to access.

Also, the UK's status as a safe haven for capital has seen billions of pounds pour in from foreign investors buying property to shelter money from crises such as that in the Ukraine.

House building is currently running at around half the level needed to meet demand, though it is accelerating.

Figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that in the first three months of 2014 there were 36,450 housing building starts; an increase of 11% on the previous quarter, and 31% on the same period in 2013.