No "silver bullet" to housing shortage, says KBC chief

Wim Verbraeken certainly doesn't think the help-to-buy scheme is it...

Calls for newly-appointed Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to scrap the help-to-buy scheme are quickly becoming the consensus, as one leading banking figure becomes the latest voice to state it is doing more harm than good.

Wim Verbraeken, the chief executive of KBC Bank Ireland, argued that the scheme targeting first-time buyers only served to fuel house prices at an investor meeting in Dublin yesterday.

According to the Irish Independent, he said that it served to "actually reinforce demand and it translated, we believe, very quickly, into higher house prices, rather than in an increased ability for first-time buyers to buy their homes."

The lending boss added that "there is no silver bullet that will solve this problem. It will come down to a combination of initiatives."

The scheme, which was only introduced in January, provides first-time buyers with a maximum refund of €20,000 for newly-built properties valued at up to €400,000.

Murphy has revealed that a review of it is currently underway and that he could potentially scrap the scheme depending on its findings.

The minister said on Sunday:

"It is a concern of mine and it is a concern that perhaps it hasn’t achieved the delivery on the supply side that we need."

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath told The Irish Times that the Government had created a "complete mess" in the housing sector, stating:

"When you do an intervention in the property market you are creating a distortion, and when a scheme is brought to an end there is further distortion."