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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] If the Taoiseach tells his press office, surely the public deserves to know. Why was the Dáil not told in an upfront and honest way? Why is there this continuing lack of respect for the House in terms of being open, upfront and honest about what is going on with schemes of this kind? People are still applying, but no one save for the press office has been told that no further approvals will issue, according to RTÉ this morning following a freedom of information request. Why can the Government not just be honest with the people about these issues? Will the Taoiseach bring clarity to this situation? When will the scheme be extended and to what degree? The original limit was €200 million and the Minister alleged that 1,000 houses were to be accommodated. Approximately 1,550 applications, if not more, have been accepted. Will those people who have been approved be in a position to draw down their loans?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. This is a Government that believes in the view that everyone has the right to shelter and everyone should be able to aspire to buy his or her own home.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley In the meantime, the Government puts them in hotels.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We are a Government that is very committed to home ownership and that has taken many actions in recent years to assist people to buy their own homes.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley How is that working out?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne A non-practising believer.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Take, for example, the help-to-buy scheme, whereby people can get some of their income taxes back to help fund a deposit. So far, 10,000 people have used the help-to-buy scheme to help them get a deposit to buy their first homes. Ten thousand people today are living in homes that they were helped to buy by the help-to-buy scheme.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley That is a different scheme.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme is another way in which we are assisting people to buy their first homes. It is open to-----

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Fine Gaelers.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----single people with an income of €50,000 or less and couples with an income of €75,000 or less where they have been refused a mortgage from the bank but could pay that mortgage back with this product because it is at a fixed low rate. It has been very popular. So far, 575 people have been helped with buying their first home with a Rebuilding Ireland home loan and a further 1,000 applicants have been approved but have not yet drawn down the funding. The scheme was initially limited at €200 million and that €200 million has been allocated, but as loans are not drawn down - they expire after six months if they are not drawn down - more finance does become available.

We now have to consider two things: whether we should increase the cap above €200 million, and that is under consideration by the Government, and we have to consult the Central Bank because this is a mortgage. It is a loan that is being offered to people who have been turned down by banks and building societies and it is at a reduced interest rate. We have to consider two things now: whether we should increase the €200 million cap and the need to consult the Central Bank as to whether it is comfortable with us offering more of these loans, taking into account the fact that it is a low-interest loan offered to people who were not able to get loans from commercial lenders.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin When did the Taoiseach discover that the Government had to do those two things? The Minister said last year: "We are not going to wait for the fund to run out before we build up a second fund to allow a continuation of the scheme with whatever changes we might deem to be necessary". He said that there would be no issue here and he would continue with a second fund. He was saying that as late as December, when he stated in a parliamentary reply that he wanted more people and for them to be processed more quickly.

It is low-income people who are being let down again. Their hopes are raised with fanfare by the Government, but the dashing of those hopes is done silently. Why was what the Taoiseach just told the House not said by the Minister in his parliamentary reply? Why did the Minister not say that he was going to be approaching the Central Bank and that the Central Bank was going to place a limit on this? Why all the secrecy and silence around this? Why can the Government not just be upfront and straight with people about what it is doing instead of hoping that the problem will go away or that someone will not discover it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Time is up, Deputy, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government advises its own press office and tells no one else. We are all dealing with applications in our constituencies.


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