More than 22,000 first-time home buyers have availed of the Government's Help to Buy scheme since its inception in 2017, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has said.
"Those who opposed this should be reminded that it has helped a significant number of people," he told a webinar event hosted by the Irish Home Builders Association (IHBA).
The scheme originally provided tax refunds of up to €20,000 or 5 per cent of a property’s value for homes priced at €500,000 or less.
However, this was enhanced as part of the Government’s July Covid stimulus programme to €30,000 or 10 per cent of the property value, whichever is the higher.
The estimated value of approved Help to Buy claims to date is about €389 million, according to the Department of Housing. Dublin accounted for the biggest number of approved claims under the scheme (6,619), followed by Meath (2,934), Cork (2,824) and Kildare (2,583).
Mr O’Brien said the incentive was just one measure being pursued by the Government to enhance affordability in the State’s housing market.
He said he intended to launch a new housing strategy this summer – Housing for All – and “affordability will form a central theme of that”.
He also said the current review of the National Development Plan will make “new and specific commitments regarding affordable housing measures”.
Also speaking at the event was IHBA director James Benson, who urged the Government to ease the current restrictions on construction.
“The case for the return to home-building is overwhelming, and the workplace is proven to be safe,” he said.
“The industry has proven construction sites can operate safely due to the controlled environment and established, targeted safety protocols. Concerns about mobility remain unfounded – cases on sites have never surpassed 56 whether at full capacity or at the reduced workforce level of 40,000,” he said.
“There is an urgent societal need for the reopening of the home-building sector for many reasons. We desperately need new homes to meet demand, and our survey of members tells us we can build 16,000 new homes if we get back on April 5th,” he said.
In its latest economic commentary, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) warned of a significant fall-off in house completions this year as a result of the current restrictions on construction, which, it said, would “exacerbate” supply shortages in the market, potentially leading to a further increase in house prices.
It said the restrictions on construction, combined with a fall-off in investment, was likely to see the supply of new homes fall to 15,000 this year, down from just under 21,000 in 2020.
Before the pandemic the ESRI had been expecting house completions to reach 26,000 units this year.