The Taoiseach and the housing crisis

Inaccurate data has huge implications for potential investors, lenders and suppliers

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – I hate to curb the new Taoiseach’s enthusiasm while he is still on his first set of batteries, but his claim that “we live in a country where 500 individuals or couples are buying their first home every week in the 12 months to February this year” needs scrutiny (“Social housing lease deals making ‘bumper profits for property funds’, Dáil told”, News, May 14th).

The Taoiseach’s assertion equates to some 26,000 first-time buyers in a 12-month period. Central Statistics Office data shows that from March 2023 to the end of February 2024, there were 17,281 stamp duty executions by first-time buyers. This equates to 332 purchases by first time buyers a week – a third less than the 500 claimed – nearly 70 per cent of whom bought second-hand houses. Mortgage drawdowns by first-time buyers over the period was about 375 per week, again nowhere near the 500 figure.

A lot of the difference between the Taoiseach’s claim and stamp duty data is self-builders. By definition, self-builders do not purchase their homes so should not be included in numbers of those “buying their first home”.

Inaccurate or misleading data has huge implications for potential investors, lenders, suppliers and so on. We saw this in 2018 when Simon Coveney’s housebuilding statistics were exposed as inflating output by 58 per cent.

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It is good news that more people are housing themselves each week, but there are by no means 500 first-time buyer individuals or couples “buying” 500 houses a week from the market. – Yours, etc,

Dr LORCAN SIRR,

Technological University

Dublin and

Visiting Professor,

University of Galway.

Sir, – In a housing debate, the Tánaiste and leader of Fianna Fáil emphasised the critical importance of increasing housing supply through the construction of new housing units.

However, it is evident that the Government, much like in recent referendums, is failing to address the core issues at hand.

The current support schemes implemented by the Government exclusively cater to new builds, neglecting the needs of prospective buyers looking at second-hand homes. This exclusion forces young individuals seeking homes in established neighbourhoods to the outskirts of urban centres or even into rural areas, in a desperate search for properties that may barely fall within their financial reach.

As a result, many find themselves compelled to rent second-hand homes at exorbitant prices in order to stay within the communities where they grew up. The lack of support for second-hand homes, whether by design or oversight, is effectively causing the separation of families.

Another significant obstacle contributing to the housing affordability crisis is the Central Bank’s restriction on loan-to-earnings ratios, limiting potential buyers’ access to mortgages despite their ability to afford higher (and obscene) monthly rent payments. This disparity highlights a systemic issue in the housing market that needs to be addressed.

Merely focusing on the construction of new homes to cater to institutional investors and speculators will not alleviate the housing crisis; instead, it risks widening the wealth gap and further enriching the affluent few. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS O’CONNOR,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12.

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