Monday 26 September 2016

British solutions to Irish problems

A forthcoming conference will hear how the UK has the answer to our housing crisis

Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30

The UK has introduced some successful measures to help kick-start the property market.
The UK has introduced some successful measures to help kick-start the property market.
Keith Lowe CEO of DNG thinks property measures introduced in the UK could work here.

Ireland should look across the water to our nearest neighbours to find a series of ready-made funding solutions to its housing crisis, a keynote speaker will tell the Irish Independent's third annual Residential Property Conference next month.

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The free-to-register event is expected to host almost 1,000 delegates at the RDS on March 2.

Keith Lowe, CEO of the 75 branch Douglas Newman Good (DNG) estate agency group, believes finance and lack of it is at the core of the Irish housing crisis on a number of levels and there are a series of British solutions already tried and tested which are immediately applicable to Irish problems - in particular those gripping the rental and social-housing sectors.

"We are still in a market which is not functioning properly and when it comes to social housing and the crisis within the rental market, we are now at a point where the market cannot sort itself out and limited Government action is required," says Mr Lowe.

"While we seem to be struggling here in Ireland to get on top of our housing and rental problems, across the water we have seen a well thought out and practically implemented set of measures which now exhibit a proven record of success ," adds Mr Lowe, whose company's researchers have focused on investigating housing market solutions successfully applied abroad.

In Britain, which has been exhibiting many of the same problems we've been experiencing her, a barrage of key measures have been introduced and have helped return the market there to a working capacity. These include:

• the Builder's Finance Fund which has enabled the finishing of part-built homes which have been derailed by the recession. Worth £500m, the fund has been aimed at assisting the completion of stricken developments of between five and 250 units which have slowed down or stalled;

• a government Loan Guarantee for Social Housing. The UK government provides guarantees to the bank on behalf of the builder so long as he is building homes for social housing purposes. Around £1bn worth of building has been approved since 2013.

"We need social housing fast and the private sector could easily supply it once Government is prepared to step in and guarantee the loans," says Mr Lowe. "And at the risk of being controversial, I would also suggest a new Section 23 scheme for social housing construction;"

• A Build-to-Rent Scheme by which finance is guaranteed for those building new homes with the sole intention of renting them out.

"We also desperately need rental accommodation aimed at students and foreign workers and so on. The only way forward is to build properties specifically for rental, and Government assistance with finance can help sort this," adds Mr Lowe. "We now hear foreign companies starting to complain that finding accommodation for their staff is a big problem, so this crisis is also threatening foreign direct investment;"

• The Help To Buy Scheme enables equity loans to be provided to first-time buyers and home movers to acquire new-build homes. Buyers contribute 5pc of the price as a deposit, the government will loan 20pc and a mortgage of up to 75pc is required to cover the rest. Mr Lowe says: "While it has proven a success, there is a suggestion it has also proven somewhat inflationary. But again it has worked well generally and has helped kick-start home building activity all over the UK."

The National Residential Property Conference 2016 takes place on March 2, www.residentialconf.com.

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