Minister expected to make 'significant' announcement regarding Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme

The Minister for Housing has said he is expecting to make a "significant" funding announcement regarding the future of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme this week.

Fears arose about the future of the scheme earlier this year when it emerged that uptake of the loans was far greater than had been anticipated.

In February 2018, some €200 million was allocated to the scheme and was expected to last for three years. By January of this year, drawdowns were 53% ahead of what had been expected and several local authorities had reached their full allocations.

It prompted Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to enter negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure to seek extra funding for the scheme.

Mr Murphy said those discussions are continuing and that he expects to make a "significant" announcement on a second tranche of funding this week.

He was responding to questions from Fianna Fáil Housing Spokesperson Darragh O'Brien. Mr O'Brien said a number of local authorities, including Kildare County Council, had stopped issuing loans amid the uncertainty surrounding future funding, potentially leaving thousands of people in doubt about the future of their applications.

Mr O'Brien accused Mr Murphy of "talking nonsense" and said that he was merely repeating answers given six weeks ago instead of providing updates.

Mr Murphy reiterated that the scheme remains operational and said a circular had been issued in recent months advising all local authorities to continue to process applications. He said €140 million of the €200 million had been drawn down to date.

"The fund hasn't been fully exhausted," Mr Murphy said.

"That is why I entered discussions early: to make sure we would have extra funding when it was needed."

The minister said that his department had contacted a number of local authorities directly to ensure that they were still processing applications.

"The continuation of the scheme is not dependent on me announcing additional funding. We will honour all loans," he said.

Sinn Féin's Housing Spokesperson Eoin O Broin said South Dublin County Council has also stopped issuing loans, while Labour's Jan O'Sullivan said many applicants have been left in the dark about the status of their applications.

Mr Murphy said: "The scheme remains open and local authorities have been told to continue up to and including the issue of loans. No local authority ran out of funding. Some met their allocation early and these allocations were topped up."

Mr Murphy also faced questioning about the co-living developments proposed in Dublin.

He said he doesn't expect huge demand for co-living but said that the developments are about "providing choice."

He said that as the developments are a new prospect in Ireland, his department will "keep a close eye" to ensure that guidelines are being adhered to.

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