Cork Chamber President, Ronan Murray, and CEO, Conor Healy. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Chamber looks to Austria for new housing approach

The Government has been urged to “think differently” and set up a new Vienna-style urban investment fund to help solve the housing crisis.

It comes as fresh figures reveal that only 19 applications for the Government-backed Local Authority Home Loan scheme have been approved in Cork city in 2021 and so far in 2022.

Vienna’s Wohnbauinitiative (WBI) is an investment fund and subsidy scheme that provides a number of financial supports for new housing and apartment construction.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said the Government needs to change its approach to measures that can solve the housing crisis.

He said: “Mandating the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to set up an urban housing investment fund modelled on Vienna’s WBI would unlock affordable housing in cities and provide a steady return for the state.

“It is this kind of innovative approach that is required to unlock the high-density, high-quality housing that we need in Irish cities.”

The call comes as part of Cork Chamber’s pre-budget submission which also highlights changes needed in the Government’s Croí Cónaithe scheme.

Mr Healy said: “The scheme currently ignores the extensive viability gap still present in the Built-to-Rent (BTR) sector which is inhibiting development from progressing beyond the planning stages.”

Home loans approved in Cork city

Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, and Councillor for Cork City South West, Eolan Ryng, have called on the Government and the Minister for Housing to clarify why so few Local Authority Home Loans are being approved in Cork city. Teachta Gould described the initiative as “yet another failed Government scheme” held back by a lack of funding, red tape and unaffordable housing.

He said: “Of the 694 approvals nationally in 2021, only 13 of them were in Cork city. This represents less than 2% of overall loans approved. It has to be accepted that 694 loans is a dismal result over 12 months nationally.”

The Deputy also pointed out that, out of the 133 loans approved in so far in 2022, only 6 were in Cork.

He continued: “We have a situation where there are thousands of people in desperate need of the ability to buy a home but they are being offered no support by the Government. Since the scheme was established, 56% of applicants in Cork have been refused.”

Cllr Ryng added: “It is very clear that Cork city is below the national average in approving Local Authority Home Loans. This is extremely worrying given the depth of the housing crisis here in Cork city.”