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Ireland to extend levy waiver for homebuilders, minister says

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will extend a temporary waiver on the levy homebuilders are obliged to pay local authorities until the end of the year, the housing minister said on Saturday as the government seeks to boost supply to levels needed to meet demand.

Despite recovering to a 15-year high of almost 33,000 units last year, new housing supply in Ireland has for a decade failed to keep up with demand.

Builders and analysts have credited the levy waiver with helping boost much needed supply, but say that closer to 50,000 homes are needed a year as the economy and population grows strongly.

The government introduced the scheme a year ago, its latest direct intervention in the market as it attempts to reverse record levels of homelessness and rents, and keep house price growth in check. The measure was due to expire later this month.

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"I am bringing a paper to cabinet this week that will scrap the development levies and water charges for all homes, including rural homes, for the remainder of this year," Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien told his Fianna Fail party's annual conference.

O'Brien has said previously that the measure could cut the average cost of building a house by around 12,700 euros ($13,515), rising to 20,000 for an apartment, and that it had helped some schemes remain viable as other building costs rose.

Skyrocketing rents and a lack of affordable housing has become a problem across Europe, and has been particularly acute in Ireland where housing has been the number one issue for voters for a number of years.

Irish homebuyers paid a median price of 330,000 euros per home in the 12 months to January, data from the Central Statistics Office showed last month.

Research this week from Goodbody Stockbrokers showed a 67% year-on-year jump in housing starts in the first quarter, taking the total over the past 12 months to around 38,000.

It said the surge was likely related to the proposed ending of the temporary waiver and that the measure has clearly had a positive impact in incentivising supply.

O'Brien also said he would like to extend a government-supported shared equity scheme for another five years, though that would depend on whether Fianna Fail are part of the next government after elections due within 12 months.

($1 = 0.9397 euros)

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Clelia Oziel)