FOI material collated by Fianna Fáil Housing Spokesperson Darragh O’Brien has revealed that the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government was made aware of concerns around the monitoring of the Re-Building Ireland home loan uptake as far back as September 2018 but failed to act to rectify them.

The loan scheme is aimed at helping applicants who cannot get a mortgage through the banks to avail of a competitive loan from their local authority.

Correspondence between the Housing Finance Agency, which funds the scheme, and the Department of Housing directly raises concerns around the monitoring of the scheme, as they were unaware of the level of lending by local authorities at that time.

The Minister for Housing was forced to clarify the status of the scheme last month after an internal Department of Public Expenditure memo stated it was to be frozen due to lack of funds. Local authorities are still waiting on their 2019 allocations.

Deputy O’Brien commented, “This FOI reveals that there were serious concerns around the monitoring of the scheme as far back as September 2018. That was over half a year before doubts about the future funding of the scheme were made public. The Department at that point felt that the take up of the loans was low, but recognised the need to assist in monitoring the scheme.

“The fact that the Minister was forced to enter into emergency talks with the Department of Finance to secure new funding for the scheme months after the problem was first flagged highlights the Department’s failure to effectively monitor and forward plan for the scheme.

“There was a clear disconnect between the local authorities giving out the money, the HFA that was providing the money, and the Department which was meant to be monitoring the scheme. Despite the issue being highlighted, the Department failed to act, and this has resulted in the current cloud of doubt over the entire loan system.

“Many thousands of families are reliant on this loan scheme to allow them to own the roof over their heads. The grave doubts cast over it have put their futures on hold. The government should have ensured that effective monitoring of the scheme was put in place and acted to secure additional finance far in advance of the current discussions. Instead it let the situation spiral out of control and now is in emergency talks the save the scheme.

“We need much better information, monitoring and basic forward planning to give buyers certainty into the future. The Department should green light a new round of funding and put in place a better system to monitor the scheme and prevent any future crisis”, concluded Deputy O’Brien.