Thursday 19 October 2017

'Help-to-buy scheme failed miserably' - Fianna Fáil

Eoghan Murphy Picture: Jason Clarke
Eoghan Murphy Picture: Jason Clarke

Ryan Nugent

The Government's help-to-buy programme has "failed miserably" according to Fianna Fáil - with a leading housing expert calling for it to be scrapped.

The criticism comes after it emerged that the scheme - brought in to help first-time buyers - is facing the axe with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy saying it is now under review.

The scheme was due to run until the end of 2019, having been launched by former finance minister Michael Noonan last year.

It gives first-time buyers an income tax rebate of 5pc on houses up to €400,000 - with a maximum return of €20,000 allowed.

However, Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen told the Irish Independent that the scheme has only increased the cost of houses and priced young families out of the market.

He said that his party expressed serious reservations about it as soon as it was introduced.

"We insisted on a review of this from the very beginning," Mr Cowen said.

Increase

"They failed to carry out an impact assessment of the scheme, which was ridiculous in the extreme.

"It has served no purpose other than to increase prices.

"It has failed miserably and has only priced people out of the market," he added.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Murphy said he will be waiting on the outcome of the review to establish if the scheme has failed.

"We have a review underway at the moment as to whether or not that is the case and I'll be waiting on that review to complete before I can make a decision," he said.

"It is a concern of mine and it's a concern that perhaps it hasn't achieved the delivery on the supply side that we need.

"I'm going to look at everything. No decision has been taken but my focus is going to be very much on the supply side."

The minister added that he will be looking at getting vacant sites and vacant homes back into use.

This is imperative, according to housing lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology Lorcan Sirr, who insisted that what is currently in place is not working.

Mr Sirr said there are at least 20 applicants for every new home, which is effectively causing a bidding war between first-time buyers and increasing the prices significantly.

"It's only inflationary for the purchase of new homes.

"It probably won't happen (scrapping of scheme) until after the Budget."

Mr Sirr added that the review of this and the Rebuilding Ireland programme are two positive steps.

"It also would indicate that the Taoiseach was not as enamoured with the idea as the previous housing minister," he said.

Currently there are 183,000 vacant homes across the country, which is more than 60,000 above what there should be, according to Mr Sirr.

The housing expert has called on the Government to take a number of steps to address the shortage of available homes.

One of these is to introduce a tax on those who have ownership of empty homes for a significant length of time.

"An empty house tax would free up housing," he said.

"'If your property is empty for over six months, then we're going to tax it', should be the stance," said Mr Sirr.

He said any such tax should be significant enough to make the owner of the property take action by putting it onto the market.

Irish Independent

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