As the Deputy will be aware, during the Committee Stage debate on the Finance Bill 2016 my predecessor agreed to commission an independent impact assessment of the effects of the help-to-buy scheme incentive for completion prior to budget 2018. Following a competitive tender process, Indecon Economic Consultants was appointed in April to undertake the assessment. The purpose of the project is to assess whether the policy objectives on the supply of new homes are being met, the impact, if any, the scheme is having on new and second-hand house prices and on the residential property market generally. The report is being conducted on an independent basis. Indecon has devised a methodological approach which involves the use of data from the Revenue Commissioners and other sources, conducting interviews with key stakeholders and undertaking a full analysis of the policies surrounding the scheme. In direct answer to the Deputy's question, the report is scheduled to be completed by the end of August. Once received, its contents and findings will be considered and I will decide on any appropriate action or actions to take in the context of my deliberations as part of the annual budgetary process.
The Government remains of the view that the help-to-buy incentive has the potential to increase the supply of new build homes, which is a crucial factor in addressing the problems facing the housing market generally. In that regard, it should be noted that a number of indicators point to a strengthening recovery in the housing market. For example, the latest Ulster Bank construction purchasing manager's index rose to a 15-month high in May and the index suggests housing activity has continued to expand every month since July 2013.
I reassure members of the public who may be in the process of applying for the help-to-buy incentive, or those who have applications pending, that speculation concerning its abolition will not impact negatively on their applications. I will signal well in advance any proposed change to the incentive following my consideration of the Indecon report.