Tuesday 24 January 2017

Addressing our housing sector's complex, long-standing failures

Despite what you hear about vacant units or reform of mortgage rules, there are no easy answers

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

Review: Central Bank deputy governor Sharon Donnery and governor Philip Lane. A consultation on mortgage lending is due shortly Photo: Sam Boal
Review: Central Bank deputy governor Sharon Donnery and governor Philip Lane. A consultation on mortgage lending is due shortly Photo: Sam Boal

The 200-page draft report of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness is due to be finalised over the coming weeks, and its recommendations will be influential. The dysfunction in the system of housing supply and in the market for housing finance was at the heart of the banking collapse, and the sector's failings are complex and of long standing.

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The draft touches on three important aspects that have been in the news in recent months. These are: the extent of vacant housing stock nationally, which the Housing Agency has highlighted in a recent report; the re-introduction of tenant purchase schemes by local authorities around the country; and the Central Bank's mortgage lending rules, currently the subject of consultation and review.

The chairman of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, has noted the large stock of vacant dwellings, even in Dublin, despite the upward pressure on rents. He has argued that better utilisation of the existing housing stock is, at least in part, an alternative to new construction. The report from the agency shows that vacancy rates are about 8pc in Dublin and the East region, but reach double that level in most rural counties and more than 20pc in the north Midlands.

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