The Housing Finance Agency (HFA) was established in 1982 and is a public limited company wholly owned by the Irish government. Its mandate is to provide loan finance at the lowest interest rates possible to local government and non-profit sector housing associations for social housing provision, to Higher Education Institutions for student housing provision and for mortgage lending to low-income home purchasers.
The Agency sources its finance from two European Union public banks – EIB and CEB – and from short-term deposits from local government. At the end of 2020, the outstanding loan book of HFA was EUR 5.18 billion. The HFA is self-financing – a small margin is added onto its cost of funds to cover its administration costs – so it does not receive any government subvention.
In recent years, HFA has played a key role in funding the expansion of housing support for low-income households in Ireland. In 2010 it began to offer loan finance to non-profit sector social housing providers which had previously been funded primarily by government grants. This significantly increased the volume of finance available to these housing providers and enabled them to greatly increase their output. Securing long-term fixed-rate finance enabled the HFA to offer fixed-rate loans to non-profit social housing providers. This eliminated interest rate risk, which was a key concern for them.
This experience of drawing on HFA loan finance has encouraged some non-profit social housing providers to use private banks and capital markets. HFA has also used these fixed-rate EIB and CEB loan facilities to offer 20-year fixed-rate, low-interest mortgages to low-income Irish home buyers. Long term fixed-interest mortgages are not provided by commercial mortgage lenders in Ireland and this type of loan significantly increases the affordability and predictability of mortgage payments, so it is particularly beneficial for low-income households.
 National Economic and Social Council, Housing Policy: Actions to Deliver Change, NESC Council Reports, No. 150 (November 2020). Available at http://files.nesc.ie/nesc_reports/en/150_Housing_Policy.pdf.
 Conor O’Toole and Rachel Slaymaker, “Back to the future? Macroprudential policy and the rebirth of local authority mortgages in Ireland”, Working Paper, No. 686 (Dublin, Economic and Social Research Institute, 2020). Available at https://www.esri.ie/system/files/publications/WP686_0.pdf.