Loan approvals by Home Building Finance Ireland - the Government initiative set up to fund the delivery of new homes - amounted to €539m by the end of the first half of this year.

That represented a 36% increase on the €395m total approvals at the end of last year.

HBFI has now committed just under three quarters of the €730m capital in its first two and a half years of operation.

In its latest performance update published today, HBFI said that by the end of June it had approved funding for 2,477 new homes in 54 developments in 17 counties.

193 HBFI-funded units have already been completed and sold, with a further 866 contracted for sale or sale agreed, according to the report.

Social housing projects account for around a quarter of the new homes approved for funding.

Loans from €1 million available

HBFI was established by the Government almost three years ago with the aim of making finance available for builders at market rates.

The average loan facility is €10m, although funding has ranged from €1m to €94m.

Terms of these facilities range from 12 months to 44 months, with an average of 21 months.

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The majority of units funded are two and three bedroom homes, although funding is available for housing units containing one to five bedrooms.

In the past year, the fund started backing major apartment developments for the first time.

It also launched a product specifically aimed at social housing with reduced fees.

"We have widened our product range to make it easier for housebuilders to complete units quickly and get keys in the hands of people who are looking for a new home," Dara Deering, HBFI chief executive explained.

"In response to the pandemic we launched a momentum fund, initially €200m but which was then was increased to €300m to ensure that house building continues to get access to funding."

Ms Deering said the fund was established in recognition of the fact that finance was a barrier to bringing supply to the market.

"We make sure that taxpayer capital is protected in line with risk appetite," she explained.

"We only lend where it is commercially viable. As soon as homes are finished, we're repaid and the money can be recycled to fund new homes and we're already seeing that," she added.

As well as the original €730m allocated, the fund has access to an additional €750m which it can borrow from the markets, as well as the capital that is recycled from loan repayments.

"We're an agile model and we remain flexible with that offering if there is market demand. We feel that we've a sufficient level of funding to meet the demand for projects that we're seeing today," Ms Deering concluded.