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CUDA welcomes budget increases for home retrofit grants, but incentivising homeowners to use a combination of grants, loans and savings could be key to success of retrofits

By | News

500,000 home retrofit target will not be reached unless the costs are affordable for average households, increases for SEAI grant schemes announced in todays budget are a very positive development but incentivising the use of surplus household savings may be an important piece of the puzzle

·         Credit Unions are best placed to become primary source of finance for nationwide retrofit project

·         A Government commitment for community schemes throughout Ireland will create thousands of jobs & reduce fuel poverty in households

The Credit Union Development Association [CUDA], that currently runs Ireland’s first end-to-end home retrofit scheme – ProEnergy Homes, has welcomed today’s budget announcement of an additional funding for SEAI grant schemes and the acknowledgement by Minister Eamon Ryan that this will be delivered primarily through community organisations like credit unions. This announcement is a major achievement for the SEAI and allows them to build on the work they have been doing over many years.

In 2019, 25 Credit Unions nationally piloted the ProEnergy Homes scheme. Under this approach, a national project management firm (REIL) was appointed to oversee all surveys and works, grant funding of 35% was available from SEAI for all qualifying works and low rate financing was made available for the balance of costs through the applicant’s local credit union.  CUDA reported at the time that public demand for the scheme was enormous, demonstrating people’s appetite for a ‘one-stop-shop’ model.

Following a review of the pilot scheme, CUDA determined that while the public demand for this model is high, in order to meet the Government’s target to retrofit 500,000 homes and bring them to a B2 energy rating by 2030, analysing the affordability of retrofit projects for the average household will be vital.  CUDA say in their experience of running ProEnergy Homes, the average costs per household run to approximately €30,000 – €40,000 to bring homes to B2 energy rating. The most popular measures undertaken in 2019 were external wall insulation, new glazing. Multi zone boiler controls also proved very popular.

SEAI grants will fund a generous 35% of the costs, but many homeowners will still be left with a bill of roughly €26,000 for their retrofit. While many credit unions will offer preferential finance rates for home retrofits (around 6.9% unsecured or 4.9% when backed by shares); financing retrofits over 5 years will see repayments of around €500 per month, which is still out of reach for many middle-income families.

One possible solution could be to incentivise homeowners to use some of their savings to lower the costs of financing the works. Central Bank data shows that Irish households have saved an additional €10bn this year alone with household savings now standing at record levels. Encouraging homeowners to use some of their savings, say by toping up any savings used in a fashion similar to the Help to Buy Scheme, would make home retrofits much more accessible for the average family.

For example, with costs of €40,000 to get a home to a B2 rating, grants will cover €14,000 leaving €26,000 to be covered by the homeowner. If they have managed to build up some additional savings that they can use, say €10,000 and were incentivised to use these with a 10% or €1,000 top up, the amount to be financed falls to €15,000. Financing this over 5 years would see monthly repayments of around €295 which is very typical of average home improvement loan repayments for Irish households.

Using some of the savings they have built up would allow a homeowner not only to retrofit their home and take advantage of all the benefits that brings in terms of ongoing savings for home heating, home comfort and health, but would also significantly reduce the cost of credit for the portion of the costs being financed. Making retrofits more affordable and accessible for middle income families also brings major benefits for the broader economy as greater uptake of energy retrofits has the potential to create thousands of jobs over the coming decade.

While the cross-Departmental Retrofit Taskforce will develop a new long-term national retrofit delivery model, CUDA believes that several measures should be put in place immediately and have communicated these to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan.

  1. Homeowners should be encouraged to use some of their savings toward the project rather than having to rely solely on credit.
  2. No group is better positioned than credit unions to support retrofitting plans in local communities across Ireland.
  3. There is a pressing need to develop a training programme for local tradespeople across the country so that more local workers would be able to carry on the necessary home improvements to the required standards for homeowners availing of schemes.
  4. The government should continue to fully support multi-annual grant budgets for the SEAI so that retrofitting schemes can operate unencumbered year-round.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA explained their position

While we are hugely supportive of the Minister in relation to the massive undertaking of retrofitting 500 thousand homes and commend the important announcement in the budget today, we believe that certain simple changes are necessary if the target is to be achieved. We have been engaging with the Minister in relation to these issues as we truly believe that the expansion of the ProEnergy Homes scheme will boost local communities at their time of need and have tangible and meaningful socio-economic benefits. Recent reports suggest retrofitting homes to bring them to a B2 energy rating standard or above, could significantly reduce fuel poverty*. It could also see the creation of 1000s of construction sector jobs if run efficiently and taken up on a large scale.

As the trusted provider of financial services in communities throughout Ireland, credit unions are uniquely positioned to support the delivery of a one-stop-shop model for home energy retrofits. We understand that for many households the past few months have been incredibly difficult and will unfortunately remain difficult for some time. However, some households have been in a fortunate position to build up savings this year and this is borne out in record savings inflows to credit unions since March. At a time when the interest rates and dividends available on these savings will be at or near zero, investing in a home retrofit could make a lot of sense. Combining some savings with a low rate loan will make the monthly repayments very affordable and there are many benefits; lower heating bills, a more comfortable home and the opportunity to support local tradespeople.

The announcement of the [Training\apprenticeship Programme] is an incredibly important initiative so that local tradespeople can be upskilled to complete works to the higher standards expected when retrofitting a residential house to B2 rating. As community organisations, credit unions are anxious to support local tradespeople, but too few have been trained to the standards expected on deep retrofits. Upskilling existing tradespeople nationally would allow for the creation of panels across the country that will support local economies while ensuring competition keeps prices and exchequer funding to a minimum.

Ends

*

Fuel Poverty is described as spending at least 10% of a household income on keeping a home warm

New lending rules will finally allow Credit Unions to compete

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Survey – 3 out of 4 (77%) Consumers believe Credit Unions should compete more aggressively with Banks

  • Some credit unions poised to double or triple loan book size as a result of rule changes to longer-term loans
  • Credit unions disappointed at limited permission to become a key business loan provider and to support Government Housing Schemes

CUDA believes that the new rules which aligns the volume of loans a credit union can issue to their asset size is fundamental, and could enable many credit unions to double or treble their lending in certain loan classes.

Credit unions can and should ‘take on the banks’, according to more than 70% of Irish adults in a recent survey, commissioned by CUDA and conducted by iReach. The majority (74%) of adults believe that credit unions could make a bigger impact and should collaborate to compete with the banks.

Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA), commenting on the new rules issued by the Central Bank of Ireland today, said  “Up until now the level of loans the credit union should give out was based on the percentage of loans already issued. This was holding credit unions back from providing more loans to support their members and their communities. Now the volume of loans will be based on a percentage of assets of the credit union. With an average of just 28% of assets currently lent out, the Regulations will allow many credit unions to do more loans for more people.

CUDA has persistently lobbied for these changes since 2015 and are delighted that these changes will bring much needed competition to the market for mortgages, home renovations and business loans”.

“We look forward to providing the wider range and higher volume of loans now permitted under the new rules and welcome the Regulator’s commitment to re-evaluating these limits as the sector evolves in these areas of lending. In particular CUDA believes credit unions are ready and willing to help do more in filling the void for business loans left by the banks”.

Kevin Johnson went on to express disappointment that credit unions will be prohibited from supporting aspects of Government Housing Policy such as the Repair and Leasing Scheme. There is no logic, he said, to prohibiting credit unions from providing much needed loans to their members who want to help rebuild Ireland through the Repair and Leasing Scheme. Kevin further expressed disappointment with the limit on the number of business loans a credit union can do in a time when many credit union members who are small businesses are crying out for funding.

CUDA is committed to getting solutions to these issues and will speak directly with the Department of Finance, Department of Housing and the CBI on these matters.

Kevin concluded, “It’s very encouraging to find that 59% of people aged between 18-34 either agreed or strongly agreed with the perception of credit unions being ‘dynamic and innovative’. We have made huge effort and investment in recent years to develop our work in line with advances in technology through our innovation hub, the Solution Centre. In the past three years we have introduced new lending products and these new limit rules from the Central Bank will allow us help credit unions further develop. Our Digital Marketing adverts reached 2.74m people so far in 2019, creating over 18,000 loan leads with a value of €102m. We are committed to broadening the appeal and relevance of the credit union movement among younger generations, and to making our services as accessible as possible, to as many members as we can, both old and new.”

-ENDS

 

Credit unions will use a proportion of €9bn in lending capacity to reduce SME lending costs

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“Rapid growth in Credit Union lending expected to continue as Solution Centre rolls out enhanced Credit Union Business Model”

Responding to today’s launch of the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s Report entitled “ The Cost of doing Business ” and last week’s decision by the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Finance, not to support the establishment of a new local public banking system, CUDA (Credit Union Development Association), the representative and lobby group for Ireland’s largest credit unions, said that its 48 strong network of the more progressive credit unions can fill this void and provide the much needed competition to the banks.

Speaking at the launch today, Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA, which is also behind the Solution Centre – a collaborative initiative that supplies product development and business supports to the Credit Union sector to enable them to lend to non-core sectors,

“We welcome the excellent work of both Joint Committees and their recognition that the cost of doing business, particularly the cost of borrowing needs be brought down, and that priority should be given to working with the existing framework provided by credit unions and An Post networks nationwide. Credit unions are already playing an increasing role in the Irish retail financial sector and CUDA anticipates working closely with the Central Bank of Ireland to expand the product and services that credit union branches throughout the country can offer individual and business members.

While having enjoyed strong lending growth in 2017, our 48 member credit unions are forecasting rapid growth in 2018 & 2019.”

CUDA say that it has taken a leadership role in lobbying for and developing the changes that are essential for credit unions to meet the demands of the current financial landscape. Through the Solution Centre, they have introduced new products, and implemented new processes and systems that will deliver the benefits that the advocates for public community banking are seeking.”

Mr. Johnson continued,

“Credit Unions have the lending capacity and are developing the expertise to take an enhanced role in relation to lending to SMEs. In tandem with the accompanying management and advisory support structures offered by the Solution Centre, numerous credit unions throughout the country could provide loans to SME’s, say up to €75,000.”

Mr. Johnson concluded,

“Credit unions can be at the financial heartbeat of our indigenous economy and can create a platform for rural revival, and indeed urban stimulation. With 268 credit unions and billions of euro currently available to lend, credit unions are very well positioned to deliver this service.”

Ends

 

Note to the Editor

The Solution Centre

A group of the country’s strongest credit unions established the Solutions Centre, a FinTech facilitated by CUDA, which supplies product development and business supports to the Credit Union sector and has embarked on an ambitious business transformation programme for the sector, of which mortgages is just one milestone.

Rather than simply replicating the actions of banks, the Solution Centre believes that credit unions have the flexibility and adaptability to quickly adopt new ways of doing business that will see a re-building of their market share. Credit Unions participating in our digital loan marketing programme have seen loan growth of 10-20% in a relatively short space of time, with minimal investment. It’s clear the movement’s leading credit unions have embarked on a transformative digital journey.

With 48 of the larger and more progressive credit unions, representing one third of credit unions members, coming together under the Solution Centre umbrella – we now have a structure to facilitate credit unions to achieve their goal of continuing as consumer-owned co-operatives, while delivering much needed new products and services to their members.

 

CUDA

CUDA, the Credit Union Development Association, was legally incorporated in 2003. In its early days it was the representative voice, on behalf of its owner member credit unions, with legislators and regulators. It has since evolved and now, as well as providing a ‘voice’, it is increasingly providing support facilities in the areas of regulatory compliance, risk management, shared services and competency development.