Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien says Covid-19 will not delay Rebuilding Ireland mortgages

New Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien: “I will ensure they are not paused.”

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has said he will ensure that Rebuilding Ireland home loan mortgages are not paused because of the pandemic.

Responding to a question on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr O’Brien said he did not know if such loans were affected, but he was going to discuss the issue with officials in his department.

“I will ensure they are not paused.”

A Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a government-backed mortgage for first time buyers, available from a local authority. It can be used to purchase a new or second-hand property or for self-build and provides up to 90% of the market value of the property.

His comment comes in the wake of the revelation in Monday’s Irish Times that AIB has introduced wide-ranging restrictions on mortgage lending in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They include a de-facto ban on mortgage lending to those in receipt of State wage subsidies and extra scrutiny on applications from people working in “high risk” sectors of the economy.

Mr O’Brien said he was concerned at the “blanket nature” of the bank’s response which did not take into consideration the specific circumstances of many mortgage applicants.

“The banks are not looking at specific cases.

“I am going to do my best to grapple with it.”

Mr O’Brien said that the government is committed to “ramping up” the provision of social housing and affordable housing with an emphasis on new builds. “We want to ramp up local authority building.”

The Covid-19 lockdown has had an impact on the construction sector on both public and private builds, he said. “We were on track for 25,000, but it is more likely to be 14,000.”

The affordable purchase scheme was especially important he said because so many people were “stuck in a rental trap.” Under the scheme homes could be purchased from between €160,000 to €250,000 on a shared equity basis.

Affordability was the key in the private market too, he added. “There is a lot to do.”

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