Dysfunctional housing market - Far more radical response is vital

Earlier this week the housing charity Threshold reported that in 2016 it received more than 71,000 calls, many from people facing destitution. 

This was just one way of detailing our shameful housing crisis. Figures on new mortgages published yesterday may not be as cutting in human terms but they underline how dysfunctional our housing market is.

You do not need to be a Marxist to feel uneasy at the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland figures published yesterday.

They show that each day in October some 62 first-time buyers were approved for a mortgage worth an average of €215,000, up by 10% on 2016.

In the month 3,751 mortgages were approved representing €834m, up by 20% in volume terms, and by 35% in value.

Rising prices account for just over a third (37%) of the increase in the overall approval value. Goodbody predict mortgage lending will hit €7.3bn this year, up 28% and €8.6bn in 2018.

Investec trumps those figures forecasting €7.4bn this year, and €9.1bn next year. That these spectacular increases take place while general inflation is rooted around 1% suggests our housing market is closer to a Ponzi scheme than a viable economic model.

Against this background, it is hard not to see yesterday’s Central Bank intervention as little more than fiddling harmlessly at the fringes of our housing market.

If this cycle of stress, exploitation and social inequity is to be broken something far, far more radical is required.

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