Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen has called on the Government to take a series of steps to correct serious imbalances in the housing sector.
Deputy Cowen said a functioning housing market is essential for social cohesion and must include an affordable rental market, appropriate social housing and affordable mortgages.
Speaking ahead of the party’s Private Members’ Business in the Dáil this evening Deputy Cowen said: “There are a number of serious issues affecting the housing market at the moment including the lack of social housing with 90,000 people currently on waiting lists, spiralling rents due to under supply of housing units and high variable mortgage interests rates due to the dysfunctional nature of the banking system at the moment.”
Commenting on the impending publication of new rules on mortgage lending by the Central Bank Deputy Cowen said: “Conditions for first time home buyers have deteriorated in recent times with the abolition of mortgage interest relief, a sharp rise in house prices and a decline in competition for new mortgage lending with increased in standard variable rates as a result. We believe that the minimum deposit for residential home loans should be set at 10%-12%, with any further consideration given to increasing this only after a detailed examination of the impact of this initial change. The fact is the new Central Bank rules must take account of both the social and economic needs of the country.
“There are clear steps the Government can take in order to bring greater cohesion to the housing sector, including increasing supply of housing. But we also need a stable supply of new suitable housing units which should include measures to assist couples or individuals who wish to trade down. We believe that a review mechanism should be built in to the process after 12-18 months to examine if there have been any unintended consequences from the policy including the impact on housing supply, transaction levels and prices.
Deputy Cowen also called for the rent supplement to be reviewed as a matter of urgency. He commented: “We have a very dysfunctional rental sector at the moment. Rents have spiralled beyond the reach of many people and some with young families. The rent supplement needs to be urgently reviewed by the Government but measures also need to be taken to increase the supply of social housing. There are 90,000 people on the social housing waiting lists at the moment and this is completely unacceptable.”