Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Public Accounts Committee

2021 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 7 - Office of the Minister for Finance
Finance Accounts 2021
2021 Report on the Accounts of the Public Services of the Comptroller and Auditor General
Chapter 1 - Exchequer Financial Outturn for 2021
Chapter 2 - Net Cost of Banking Stabilisation Measures
Chapter 22 - Ireland Apple Escrow Fund

9:30 am

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I understand what Mr. Hogan is saying about the various schemes, and there is no argument about the fact we need homes. We want to accelerate that and get as many as possible delivered, in terms of private affordable homes, social homes, cost rentals and so on. There is broad agreement on that. Mr. Hogan gave a figure of €87 million but there is concern about the scheme. The concern I have relates to the increased costs of construction over and above what we spoke about earlier, and we then add in the help-to-buy scheme and the shared equity scheme. I do not want to get into a debate on the rights or wrongs of them but there is a cost associated with both those schemes. There is also the defective concrete block levy and, in recent weeks, a change in the mortgage rules was introduced by the Central Bank, allowing people to borrow up to four times of their income as opposed to just 3.5 times, a significant move. I have heard some economists ask whether we are just chasing house prices and whether house prices will just keep increasing.

On top of all that, there are increased international interest rates, including in the US and the changes introduced by the European Central Bank, all of which are significant, adding €200, €300 or €400 to the average mortgage. Mr. Hogan correctly said the housing market is a significant part of the economy, and it was the part of the economy that destroyed it the last time round, 14 years ago. It was allowed to destroy the overall economy and we are still paying heavily for that. Is there concern in the Department of Finance about the cumulative effect of the help-to-buy scheme, the shared equity scheme, the concrete block levy, the change in the mortgage rules whereby people can now borrow up to four times their income as opposed to up to 3.5 times, and the overall change in interest rates on international markets, including by the ECB, and the knock-on effect we will feel from that down the line? Is there a concern about all that and the risk to that sector and the overall economy?