Help-to-buy scheme should be retained, says Sherry FitzGerald chief

Government should focus on reducing construction costs, Mark FitzGerald says

Sherry FitzGerald chief executive Mark FitzGerald: “I would say the help-to-buy scheme is working.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Sherry FitzGerald chief executive Mark FitzGerald: “I would say the help-to-buy scheme is working.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The head of Ireland’s largest estate agent has urged the new Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, not to scrap the help-to-buy scheme that it introduced at the beginning of this year to assist first-time buyers to purchase a new home.

The call by Mark FitzGerald, who is preparing to step down as chief executive of Sherry FitzGerald next month after 35 years at the helm, comes amid reports that the Government is preparing to discontinue the scheme, which was introduced in last year’s budget and offers grants of up to €20,000 for first-time buyers.

Speaking to Inside Business, an Irish Times podcast, Mr FitzGerald said: “It’s beginning to work. When you look at the data . . . the evidence is showing that increases are coming in the second-hand market, where there’s a limited supply. The amount of houses coming on the second-hand market is significantly down on last year and that’s where the prices are rising.

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“What we are finding is that where there’s an increase in the supply of new homes, prices increases are moderating. So I would say the help-to-buy scheme is working.

“We probably need to do more to reduce construction costs and to increase output. That’s the real challenge for the Minister.”

Mr FitzGerald, a son of former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, said the Government should also be building social housing and “radical” thinking was required to solve the current housing issues.

He said the Government could get on top of the housing crisis by tackling supply issues and lowering input costs. If not, it could take six or seven years to fix.

Mr FitzGerald is handing over the baton as chief executive to the company’s finance chief, Steven McKenna (39), but he will continue as non-executive chairman and its largest shareholder, with a stake of about 40 per cent.

He said his changing role was not a signal that the business was about to be sold. “There’s nothing like that currently on the agenda but it’s obviously an issue as to where the business goes to in the future. I’m 60 years of age, so things will change. I’m not sure what course that is going to take but it’s really a matter for Steven McKenna, the new CEO to look at. For the moment, it’s steady as she goes . . . I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of change in a near future at Sherry Fitz. ”