Shane Ross

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House Prices: The Banks are Lending Recklessly

Posted on: June 16th, 2006

One of the great problems of the success of the Celtic tiger is that the property market has taken off to such an extent that so many people cannot afford to buy houses. It is an issue the Government has been unable to address successfully.

It is not just people on the modest incomes mentioned in the motion who are excluded from the housing market. It is also people with middle and high incomes. There are people at every level of income who cannot get on the property ladder.

People are using the most extraordinarily devious means to get on the property ladder. These means are forced on them by the price of houses. They include going to the bank and telling a pack of lies about their incomes and expenses. The banks accept those lies, knowing quite well that they are lies, and give them the loans. There is massive competition for mortgages, which means the housing boom is being fuelled by the banks.

One of the great problems is that the banks are bending over backwards to lend money to people who cannot afford it. The rise in interest rates in the last few days signals the beginning of a difficult period for many young people in this country whose mortgage repayments will become far more difficult to pay. Then the banks will demand payments which people will be unable to pay.

I do not blame the Government for the boom in the property market but, to some extent, those who are lending money recklessly to people who, one day, will be unable to afford to repay that money. All sorts of bogus stress tests are conducted on people. We know these are bogus because the amounts that the banks are prepared to lend to people to get into the property market are now from six to nine times their income. In more prudent days, the amounts were two or three times their income.