Tuesday, 13 October 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
92. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government whether, further to Parliamentary Question No. 30 of 5 March 1998, his attention has been drawn to the housing crisis that exists with particular reference to first time home seekers; the emergency measures, if any, he intends to take to ensure that affordable housing is available for these persons; the total number of persons in respect of both public and private housing who are in need of a home; the number of homes likely to become available for these persons in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19402/98]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy): Action has already been taken by the Government in response to increased demand for housing, both in the overall context and in relation to social housing.
The comprehensive package of measures announced in the Government's Action on House Prices published on 23 April last involves a three pronged approach to increase the potential supply of housing, address factors causing overheating or distortions in the market, and improve the position of prospective first-time buyers.
Measures to assist first-time buyers form a key element of the package including: an increase in the income limits for the local authority shared ownership scheme; removal of fiscal incentives to investors who were pricing low income buyers out of the market; significant reductions in stamp duty rates, particularly at lower price levels, and measures to boost housing supply such as special  additional Exchequer funding for water, sewerage and roads infrastructure to open up substantial extra land for housing, promotion of increased densities at appropriate locations, and a temporary reduction of capital gains tax on disposal of serviced land to encourage faster release for residential development.
The full effect of some of the measures, particularly those designed to promote housing supply, will only be seen in the medium term. However, positive effects have already been reported by market sources, including signs of some easing of the house prices situation, first-time buyers reclaiming the starter home market, which had been increasingly dominated by investors, and an increase in the number of second hand houses coming on the market as a result of stamp duty reductions.
In relation to the position of those households who rely on social housing to meet their housing needs, substantially increased resources were devoted to these programmes in 1998 in line with the Government's commitment in An Action Programme for the Millennium to a continuing house construction programme by local authorities and voluntary bodies. I expect that the social housing measures, including newly provided local authority and voluntary housing, vacancies in the existing local authority housing stock, shared ownership etc. will meet the needs of up to 10,000 households this year, compared to under 9,300 households in 1997. I am seeking further increases in resources for social housing in the coming year, in advance of the results of the statutory assessment of the need for local authority housing which will be undertaken next March.
Overall housing output continues to respond well to demand and in 1998 will be in the order of 40,000 completions. This will exceed last year's record level and the trend should be reinforced significantly as the measures taken by the Government to boost housing supply begin to be reflected in terms of output.
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