Written answers

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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89. To ask the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 118 of 21 May 2024, his plans for the phasing out of the help-to-buy scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28387/24]

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Help to Buy Scheme was introduced in 2017 with the purpose of assisting first-time buyers with the deposit required to purchase or self-build a new house or apartment to live in as their home. The relief is only available in respect of new builds, with a view to increasing the supply of new housing and stimulating demand.

The scheme has been a significant support for first time buyers of new homes. The most recent data available up to 1 June 2024, some 47,356 first-time buyers either singly or as part of a couple, have benefited from the scheme.

The Deputy had previously raised concerns that the scheme may exacerbate housing prices, and, as has previously been stated, policy makers were aware at the time that the scheme was being developed that it was not without risk. Likewise, they were aware that there was a danger that, against a background of constrained supply, the initiative could serve to increase prices for new homes, thus potentially undermining to some extent the affordability aspiration of the scheme. However, on all occasions when the matter was formally examined to date, concerns in this regard were not borne out by the review data.

Studies carried out by Indecon Economic consultants found that the main driver of house prices was the mismatch between supply and demand rather than the existence of the scheme. Similarly, the review by Mazars in 2022, found that there is no definitive evidence that Help to Buy pushed up the price of new houses. In fact, Mazars found that the prices paid for new homes by people who received the Help to Buy relief were slightly lower than new house prices in the economy in general, likely because of the €500,000 price eligibility cap.

There have been some significant changes in the market even since the Mazars report on the scheme was published. The change in interest rates in the intervening period means that further stability and certainty is needed for first time buyers who may now face higher mortgage interest rates. The decision was made that now is not the time for the withdrawal of supports for those purchasers. The extension of the Help to Buy for a further year to 31 December 2025 takes account of the need for certainty in the market pending the increase in new housing supply envisaged by the Government’s Housing for All strategy.

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