JUST OVER 60 AFFORDABLE LOANS DRAWN DOWN ACROSS DUBLIN - Just 60 affordable home loans have been drawn down right across Dublin city and county, new figures show, despite more than 1,000 applicants for the scheme which launched last February. 

The figures also show that more than one in two applicants are failing to secure approval right across the capital for the scheme, with a success rate of less than 20 per cent in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown. The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme allows putative first-time buyers to avoid Central Bank loan restrictions and lock in to low-cost interest rates of as low as 2% by applying for a home loan with their local authority, and is part of the Government's three-pronged approach to make homes more affordable. However, the scheme has been criticised for being too difficult to access, and is currently the subject of a review from the Department of Housing. Following queries from The Irish Times, the lowest drawdown rate across Dublin has been found in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, which covers areas such as Sandyford, Stillorgan and Blackrock, and has some of the highest house prices in the country. The local council said that just one affordable home loan has been drawn down since the end of September 2018, at a value of €227,000. In total, the council said it had received some 82 applications, but 17 of these were rejected outright on the grounds that they were "incomplete and/or ineligible". Some 16 loans were approved in principle, totalling some €3.7 million, for an average loan size of about €230,000.

OIL AND GAS SET FOR €500m CASH BOOST AS PRICES ON UP - Around €500m is set to be invested in Ireland's oil and gas sector over the next two years, according to a new survey by PwC. 

The figure, based on responses from 57 oil and gas companies here, comprises investments in exploration activities like drilling or shooting seismic imaging, according to Ronan MacNioclais, a partner in PwC's oil and gas practice. "The stabilisation and improvement in oil and gas prices in recent times has had a positive impact on the Irish oil and gas industry. Over half reported a high level of optimism in relation to the level of petroleum they believe has yet to be discovered in Ireland, in spite of the lack of historic commercial discoveries here. Nearly two-thirds are positive about the future outlook for the Irish oil and gas sector. This is manifested by the fact that a number of drilling programmes are planned in Irish waters over the course of the next few years," he said. The survey also addressed the future in light of Ireland's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, says the Irish Independent. An opposition bill designed to ban new exploration licences is before the Dáil. However last week Sean Canney, the minister of state for rural affairs and natural resources, indicated the Government will block the bill, saying it "will do nothing to reduce our use of oil or gas". The PwC survey found that it has become increasingly difficult for firms operating in the sector here to find so-called farm-out partners - other companies which take stakes in exploration prospects.

BUYING TO RENT POPULAR AMONG YOUNG - There is a compelling need for more investment in the build-to-rent housing model with vastly increasing numbers of young people preferring to rent rather than owning homes outright, a new report has said. 

Consultant firm Linesight said within the 29% of Irish people now renting, two-thirds of that group were aged 25 and 44, one of the highest rates in the EU, says the Irish Examiner. With apartment living rising by almost 89% since 2002 in Dublin to become the fastest growing type of housing nationally, and housing stock remaining way below required levels, the buy-to-rent model "can go some way to alleviate this supply-demand imbalance", Linesight said. The concept of buy-to-rent development is one that is firmly established in many jurisdictions such as the US, where it is now regarded as a mainstream sector, offering superior returns to other more traditional forms of investment. "Buy-to-rent has also gained popularity in Europe and in the UK in recent years, but is as yet only at an embryonic stage in the Irish market," the report said. The 25 to 44 age cohort lends itself well to the model, including would-be first-time buyers seeking security of tenure, but who cannot access mortgages, and young professionals who are attracted to increased amenity and residential servicing, Linesight said.


FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE SIGN UP TO TIM BERNERS-LEE'S 'CONTRACT' - Facebook and Google have signed up to new internet standards designed by world wide web founder Tim Berners-Lee, who said just last week that the companies may have to be broken up to reduce their dominance.

The "contract for the web" will require internet companies to respect data privacy and "support the best in humanity", after a year in which they have faced unprecedented criticism for data privacy scandals and the spread of fake news, hate speech and online abuse, writes the Financial Times. "Those of us who are online are seeing our rights and freedoms threatened," Sir Tim said at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon on Monday evening. "We need a new contract for the web, with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better." Nearly 60 companies, governments and business leaders have signed up to the contract, including Facebook, Google, the French government and billionaire Richard Branson. Amazon, one of the "huge companies" named in a report published alongside the contract, has not signed up. The contract sets out high-level principles for a "free and open web", such as improving internet access and promoting privacy. But according to a spokesperson, the standards will be more detailed after consultations with governments and companies, and could include a commitment to net neutrality, which the British computer scientist has fiercely advocated for after a rollback in the US.