Tuesday 15 October 2019

Murphy under fire over loan scheme and homelessness

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Collins
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

HOUSING minister Eoghan Murphy has come under fire over the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme and the rising number of homeless people.

He faced claims at the housing committee that if the Home Loan scheme was a business it would be "insolvent".

And, appearing at the Oirechtas Housing Committee, he was also forced to defend his record on homelessness amid claims there has been 25pc rise in their number since he became minister.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme is for first-time buyers have haven't been able to get sufficient loan offers from banks.

It allows them to borrow up to 90pc of a property's value from their local council.

RTÉ reported that a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform memo said the scheme was on hold because it has run out of funding.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry put it to Mr Murphy that the Home Loan scheme was effectively frozen while he negotiates with the Department for more funding.

Mr Murphy insisted: " the scheme is not closed" and "funding has not run out".

He said in January there had been around 50pc draw down and in February he told the Dáil further tranches of funding will be needed.

Mr Murphy stressed: "People can still apply for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. Funding is still available.

"We’re almost at our limit but we’re not at our limit actually in terms of the amount approved and what might be drawn down because there’s a difference between the two."

He said some local authorities' allocations have been used up but they received extra funding.

Mr Murphy said: "The reality is scheme will require more money to be made available and that’s what I’m discussing with the minister for Public Expenditure and Reform [Paschal Donohoe].

"But to repeat the scheme has not closed, funding has not run out, and applications can continue".

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien criticised the handling of the initiative claiming: "If you were a business you’d be insolvent".

He asked for guarantees that those who have been approved for loans will be able to draw them down.

Mr Muprhy said: "any loan approval that has been given will be honoured."

Earlier Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said there has been a 61pc increase in homelessness since the government took office and a 25pc rise since Mr Murphy became housing minister.

The numbers in emergency accommodation stood at 9,987 people in January.

He asked: "Is it not time to accept with respect to homelessness that Rebuilding Ireland is failing and unless you start to do something different... this problem is going to continue to get worse?"

Mr Murphy insisted that everything the government is doing in housing policy including the funds being spent and efforts to support house building is having an impact on preventing people entering emergency accommodation and helping them leave it.

He said that there were "big jumps" in people entering homelessness in 2016 and 2017 but last year's increase was not on the same scale.

He said this shows that measures to help increasing the stock of social and private housing and rent pressure zones are "having a tangible impact in terms of less people entering emergency accommodation".

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