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Mortgage market goes back to the 1970s

While statistics on unemployment and the national debt suggest Ireland is mired back in the 1980s, forecasts for mortgage applications this year -- at a pitiful 11,000 -- suggest Ireland is dealing with an economic backdrop not seen since the early 1970s.

Of course, statistics are by their nature selective and the actual size of our economy these days is nothing like that of the 1970s, but clearly the housing market is still suffering a painful re-adjustment.

The reasons for this are varied. Higher interest rates, lack of demand, lack of credit and, of course, unemployment among young people, who usually provide the backbone of the first-time buyer market.

While the banks claim to be open for business, they are often seeking deposits that potential borrowers don't have. The borrowers themselves are reluctant to buy based on the belief that prices will drop even further. This deflationary spiral is going to be hard to break.

However, what the Government can do is make sure the state-owned banks are actually lending to home buyers to the fullest extent possible. The banks have benefitted from generous capital injections from the State and it is incumbent on them to find a way to service the needs of homebuyers.