Time to ‘shout stop’ on mortgage caps, Sherry FitzGerald chair says

Mark FitzGerald says ‘genius of capitalism’ should be released

 

The chairman of the largest Irish estate agency has said it is time to “shout stop” about the Central Bank’s mortgage lending restrictions and has called on the regulator to relax its rules to release “the genius of capitalism”.

Mark FitzGerald, the chairman of Sherry FitzGerald, said the Central Bank’s macroprudential rules, which cap new mortgages according to loan-to-value and loan-to-income limits, are “too binding”.

“The Central Bank is . . . [too] transfixed on avoiding the beast of capitalism,” he said on Friday, while addressing a conference organised by Property Industry Ireland, a division of employers’ group Ibec

Mr FitzGerald said it was “widely known” that people could manage spending about 30 per cent of their total income servicing their mortgage, but in some instances “they are not being allowed to”.

Gabriel Makhlouf [the incoming Central Bank governor], needs to be told he has a broader job than he thought,” said Mr FitzGerald.

The Central Bank introduced lending caps in 2015 to prevent overborrowing in a rising housing market. Borrowers are restricted to loans of 3.5 times their gross income and most homebuyers can only borrow 90 per cent of the purchase price if they are first-time buyers, or 80 per cent for other buyers.

Mr FitzGerald also called for more “collaboration” between State agencies and the property industry. He said Enterprise Ireland should encourage companies to build “four or five modular housing factories” in deprived areas, to provide jobs in those areas producing low-cost housing.

“The biggest constraint is mindset,” he said.

Housing shortage

He said he had attended a meeting in the Department of Finance in 2012, along with other property industry figures, at which, he claimed, Government officials were warned a housing shortage was in the pipeline.

“Ministers and politicians should sit in the audience and listen at housing conferences, instead of speaking at them,” he said.

The conference at the Marker Hotel in Dublin’s docklands also heard from UK-Australian businessman David Higgins, the chairman of London Gatwick Airport and an adviser to the board of Quintain, a major property developer and urban renewal specialist.

He said developers should tailor housing and offices in the city to cater for the needs of millennials. He also said that the residential property sector needs more “long-term institutional capital”.

“That will reduce volatility and reduce boom-bust. That will also eventually reduce the cost of capital,” he said.