Saturday 16 December 2017

€200m for housing in EIB's decade commitment

EIB president Werner Hoyer, left, tries on a VR headset during a tour of the RCSI in Dublin Picture: Maxwells
EIB president Werner Hoyer, left, tries on a VR headset during a tour of the RCSI in Dublin Picture: Maxwells

Cormac McQuinn and Michael Cogley

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is poised to provide Ireland with around €200m to help tackle the housing crisis, its president has revealed.

EIB president and former German minister, Werner Hoyer, was in Dublin to mark the opening of the bank's new office here. He gave details of the proposed loan to build thousands of social and affordable housing units.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a host of ministers and MEPs were present in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel to welcome Mr Hoyer.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the Government will seek to tap into the EIB's "years of experience" in judging infrastructure projects.

He said the presence of an office here is a "statement of confidence" by the bank in future investment opportunities in the Irish economy.

He quipped the Government welcome the new EIB office because: "They have an awful lot of money and they're prepared to give it to us reasonably cheaply".

While Mr Noonan did not raise the issue of EIB cash to fund housing, he referred to demographic pressures in Ireland and the possibility of seeking EIB finance to help provide infrastructure.

Mr Werner, however said the EIB expects a deal amounting to around €200m to come early in the new year. He also suggested there is a possibility of future finance for housing.

He said: "This is a first step. I think the housing challenge for Ireland will remain for the next decade and we will be there."

The benefit of such a loan would be that it would be 'off-balance' sheet, meaning the Government wouldn't be in breach of European fiscal rules.

In its 46 years of lending here the EIB has invested billions into Irish projects, including the Luas and Terminal Two.

Mr Hoyer was also asked about water charges and whether the Government has contacted the EIB in relation to financing water services.

He was familiar with "the political sensitivities" surrounding the issue and that the structure for funding water services is a decision for Ireland that he cannot "pre-empt".

However, he said: "I hope we'll have that decision soon, then we'll be able to assist."

Mr Hoyer said the European Union is in "bad shape and we have to be worried".

"I believe the way we are treating this crisis presently is insufficient," he said, referring to Brexit and other political upheaval.

Irish Independent

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