Minister defends first time buyers scheme over claims it's no use
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has defended his new home loan scheme against accusations it will be of little use to the majority of first-time buyers.
The loans, which have a fixed interest rate of 2-2.25pc for up to 30 years, can be used to purchase a house worth €320,000 in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
Opposition parties have said Mr Murphy is missing the point by providing cheap credit when there is a lack of homes on the market.
Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen said: "Too many of our younger generation are being priced out of the market nationwide. There may be some that could benefit from the scheme announced this morning but the vast majority, particularly single people and couples, will not benefit due to the existing mortgage rules of the Central Bank.
"A distinct lack of affordable housing remains at the very core of Ireland's housing crisis."
The Labour Party's Jan O'Sullivan said the new scheme was nothing more than a tweaking of the existing local authority loan scheme.
"While this change is welcome and long overdue, people can't buy affordable homes that don't exist," she said.
Ms O'Sullivan said the Affordable Purchase Scheme does not have the structural support required to ensure enough homes will be built.
"It is clear the private housing market has failed to deliver and more active State intervention is required.
"The Labour Party has consistently argued for Nama to be turned into a financer, and direct builder and provider of affordable housing for sale or rent, using the expertise already in situ there, and in the Housing Agency and Housing Finance Agency.
However, speaking after a housing summit with the chief executives of the country's local authorities, Mr Murphy said a new agency was not needed to speed up construction rates.
"Our housing system was broken and we are fixing it at the moment. That requires a multiplicity of responses because it's complex.
"Absolutely at the heart of our plans is building new homes," he said.
Mr Murphy said the new product was "very exciting".
"When we looked at the figures around the greater Dublin area and Cork and Galway, we saw that more than enough houses were available at that price for first-time buyers. But that isn't necessarily going to be consistent across every local authority in the greater Dublin area and Cork and Galway," he said.
Representatives from all the country's 31 local authorities attended a summit in Dublin yesterday where they were given until mid-February to set out how they will deliver on the social housing targets over the coming years.
The targets and details of the delivery programme of each local authority will then be published on a continuing basis.
The meeting was also told that following an open competition, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive has appointed Bob Jordan as a new national director of Housing First.
Mr Jordan is a former director of Threshold and previously worked as an adviser in the department of housing.
"Our housing shortage and homelessness crisis remains the number one Government priority," Mr Murphy said.
"This second housing summit, with the previous one held in September, is proving itself an important mechanism in the implementation and acceleration of Rebuilding Ireland.
"Working together we can efficiently tackle our crisis in homelessness and build new social, affordable and private homes in a sustainable way."