Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Topical Issue Debate
Home Loan Scheme
The Minister of State has confirmed that the rejection rate is approximately 50%. If another Department was operating a scheme and its rejection rate was 50%, with no appeal to the Ombudsman or the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman available, the Minister of State would not be able to stand over it. He should ask his officials to come into the 21st century. There is no level of commercial sensitivity involved in this. People have only sought a loan from the local authorities because they have not been able to get a commercial loan on the open market. The local authorities are a place of last resort for them. As for the rejection rate, the Minister of State stated the Housing Agency undertakes a detailed credit analysis and considers credit history, ability to pay and the borrower's credit needs. That should be spelled out in the criteria and people should be informed which element of the criteria they failed to meet. The idea of having secret criteria about which people will not be informed and which will not be shared does not make any sense in this day and age. I note it is a substantial document.
We have had enough of public bodies refusing to tell the public, particularly people dealing with the public bodies, that they cannot have access to information. Personal information and the reason for decisions are being concealed. Public bodies are refusing to pass on information. If the Minister of State has learned anything from the actions of another Department in recent months, he must know that there is no basis for a public body operating in secret when it comes to the information of citizens. Those days are over. That manner of operating might have been valid in the last century. It is not acceptable now. Any independent person looking at this could not stand over it.
This scheme is failing because it is disjointed. The Minister of Finance answered a parliamentary question I had tabled last night on the help-to-buy scheme, which suggested that people who are divorced and who previously owned a house cannot access that scheme. Those people, thankfully, can avail of this scheme in special circumstances. We have two schemes which are designed to help people to buy houses. The Department is saying some people are eligible but they are then refused, and they are then allowed access to this scheme. There is a lack of joined-up thinking between the State agencies on this matter. The fact that the Ombudsman and financial ombudsman have been excluded from any independent review says it all. This matter must be revisited.