FOR would-be home-owners, the housing market must cause despair. Prices have been sky-rocketing until recently, pushing ownership even further beyond the reach of couples earning anything less than fabulous salaries. The good news for those hoping to buy is that prices have begun to level out. The property price indexed compiled by real estate agents Jones Lang Wootton, to be issued this week, will show that average prices of medium and large flats rose by only 2.24 per cent between July and October. In the previous quarter, they had leapt by 15.2 per cent. But the property market rarely produces only good news. The bad news now is that prices are stabilising because the big banks have virtually stopped new mortgage lending. Even those able to afford to buy a flat will have a hard time raising the finance from one of the main banks. This is tough but if prices had continued to zoom ahead, housing would have remained beyond the reach of all but the wealthy. Action needed to be taken to slow price rises and bring some order and sanity to the market. But once the banks are confident ithas stabilised, they have to start easing the lending restrictions, to give people the chance to buy a home.