Sunday 17 November 2019

Minister rejects calls to shut down scheme for first-time buyers

Pearse Doherty says the scheme needs to be stopped. Photo: Tom Burke
Pearse Doherty says the scheme needs to be stopped. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has rejected Opposition demands to suspend the Government's help-to-buy scheme, amid claims it is fuelling the latest surge in house prices.

Mr Coveney last night said the scheme was crucial in helping couples who have been "locked out the market for years".

He was responding to calls by Sinn Féin's finance spokesman Pearse Doherty to suspend the scheme and for no further applications to be accepted.

Mr Doherty likened the scheme to a "bribe for developers" and said its introduction was directly responsible for the latest increase in prices in the first three months of the year.

"This scheme needs to be stopped, reviewed and in my view totally abandoned or seriously refined now before even more damage is done," Mr Doherty said.

Fianna Fáil also piled the pressure on Mr Coveney over his handling of the housing crisis.

The party's housing spokesman Barry Cowen said there was a real risk that an "entire generation" would never realise their ambitions of owning their own homes. "The Government cannot rely on wishful thinking, and glossy action plans to build the houses that are so desperately needed," Mr Cowen said.

But speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Coveney said he was "surprised" that Mr Doherty and Mr Cowen do not appear to have anticipated an increase in house buying activity.

The Cork South Central TD said the house price figures were a result of a "dramatic increase in appetite" to build new houses coupled with a greater desire by the banks to approve mortgages.

He said the market was trying to "correct itself" and that his focus as minister had always been on increasing supply.

"For people to expect Government housing policy to solve all the problems in a matter of months is simply not realistic," Mr Coveney added.

Irish Independent

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