Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - House Prices.

Thursday, 29 June 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 522 No. 4

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  2.  Mr. Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government  Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey   the average price of a new house in Dublin at the end of the first quarter of 1997; the average price of a new house in Dublin at the end of the first quarter of 2000, or on the latest date for which figures are available; when he intends to publish housing statistics for the first quarter of 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18844/00]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy): Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  According to my Department's house price data, which compile average house prices on the basis of loan approvals by all mortgage lending agencies, the average price for a new house in Dublin in the first quarter of 1997 was £84,001, while the average new house price in the first quarter of this year was £162,044. The average mortgage interest rate in the first quarter of 1997 was 6.9% and in the first quarter of this year it was 4.6%.

While average house prices have increased significantly over this period, the Government has acted decisively to restore balance to the market and my Department's house price statistics show a welcome moderating trend in house price increases which, given the continued very strong demand for housing, is firm evidence of the effectiveness of measures taken by Government to address the issue.

Average house prices for the first quarter of 2000 indicate a significant moderating trend of price increases on previous quarters, with Dublin house prices showing reductions of 1.1% and 2.7% in the average prices for both new and second-hand homes respectively, the first quarter that average prices have dropped since 1995. Year on year house price increases – March 2000 compared to March 1999 prices – are also significantly lower than in previous quarters, with annual new and second-hand house price increases in Dublin of 13% and 17%, well below the peak inflation rates of 37% and 41% respectively in mid-1998, just prior to the publication of [980] the Government's policy document, Action on House Prices.

The March 2000 Quarter Housing Statistics Bulletin will be published in the next few days. Summary house price data were published on Monday last.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Is the Minister of State satisfied that, in the period in which he has been in office – the period to which the question refers – the average price of a new house in Dublin has doubled? With regard to his comments about the first quarter of 2000, has the Government adopted a policy aimed at reducing house prices? Does he intend to reconsider current housing policy given that the third Bacon report, and the Government's response to it, is generally regarded as not being capable of addressing the housing crisis in its totality?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  All the actions we have taken have had a positive effect on the market. There is a strong demand for houses and the only permanent solution to this problem is to bring the supply of houses into balance with the level of that demand. That is what we have been seeking to do. In the meantime we have taken measures which will allow the market to cope with this extraordinary level of demand and the resultant increases in house prices and rents.

On many occasions I have expressed my dismay at the level of increase in house prices. However, I entered office only in the middle of 1997 and the Deputy must recognise that it usually takes one or two years for decisions relating to the housing area—

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The average price of a house in Dublin was then £84,000.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  —to take effect. House prices were already on the increase before the previous Government left office. We have taken effective action in respect of this matter and the level of increase in house prices has decreased since the middle of 1998, when the situation reached its peak. We intend to keep a tight rein on matters because the other factors which influence this area are artificial and their effect will be temporary.

It is forecast that the high level of demand for housing will continue for some time. We intend to ensure housing output is increased from the very low level which obtained when we took office up to the extraordinary high level of 55,000 to 56,000 houses per annum. In my opinion it is possible to achieve that level of output and various measures designed to ensure it is achieved were published two weeks ago.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister of State is attempting to talk his way out of a corner again.

Mr. Hayes:  He is making a Second Stage speech.

[981]Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  He should realise there are only six minutes for this question.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The measures to which I refer will bring about a major improvement in housing output.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister of State should not be afraid to allow me to ask a further supplementary question. I promise it will not be a difficult one.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  We have taken measures in respect of infrastructural improvement, planning matters and the various constraints and obstacles responsible for restricting housing output. These measures are beginning to free up the market and make it easier for developments to reach the commencement stage. I am sure we will achieve the extraordinarily high targets we have set for ourselves.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I wish to ask one supplementary question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy must be brief because the time for this question is almost exhausted.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister of State placed particular emphasis on a number of the first quarter results for 2000 which show, in certain instances, that there has been a decrease in house prices. Will he indicate if it is the Government's policy to reduce house prices?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is the Government's policy to try to ensure—

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I want a straight answer.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  —that houses will be sold at a price people, particularly first-time buyers, can afford to pay.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must proceed to Question No. 3.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The measures we have taken to remove stamp duty and other measures will help people to achieve their objective of purchasing houses.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I have called Question No. 3.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Minister is avoiding the issue.


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