Housing Assistance: A comprehensive overview of purchase schemes

There are a number of different Housing Assistance Purchase Schemes available for prospective purchasers.  Most are run through individual Local Authorities, but some are run directly by relevant government department such as the Help to Buy and Revenue. The variety of schemes is to be welcomed in the context of the housing crisis. We have found that many purchasers are not aware of their options and the goal of this post was to pull them all together for ease of reference.

Below we have compiled a list of some of the more common schemes we are seeing on a day to day basis in our office.  The information regarding these schemes has been pulled directly from the relevant websites for each and we have included links should you require further information directly from the source.

If you have any questions regarding any of the schemes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our conveyancing department.

1. Fresh Start Mortgage

A Fresh Start principle applies for applications to State affordable housing and loan schemes. This means that the following categories of persons are eligible to apply for the Local Authority Home Loan:

  • Applicant(s) who previously purchased or built a dwelling, together with a spouse, a civil partner or a person with whom he or she was in an intimate and committed relationship are eligible under the Fresh Start principle where this relationship has ended, and they have divested themselves of their interest in the previous property.
  • Applicant(s) that previously purchased or built a residential property, but has been divested of this through insolvency or bankruptcy proceedings, are eligible to apply. However a separate assessment of creditworthiness will be conducted by the underwriters. This applies when the applicant has exited the insolvency / bankruptcy proceedings.

Termination of Relationships – Separation / Divorce / Dissolution of Civil Partnership / Civil Annulment

In recognition of instances where an individual has undergone a separation / legal separation / divorce or otherwise and has relinquished their rights to the family home property, an exemption to the First Time Buyer eligibility criteria can be applied under the Fresh Start Principle.

In cases such as these, the applicant must meet all the following criteria (This will need to be confirmed by way of a solicitor’s letter before drawdown of any loan):

  • be separated/legally separated/divorced (i.e. their marriage or civil partnership or partnership has been legally or otherwise dissolved) under a Court Order or by a separation agreement.
  • if there is no separation agreement regarding the breakdown of a relationship, a sworn statement should be obtained confirming: There is no formal separation agreement.
    • There are no court proceedings pending under family law legislation.
    • The position in relation to maintenance and other payments, if any.
  • have left the family home property and retained no interest in it, and
    the property under the Local Authority Home Loan is the first residential property purchased since leaving the family home.
  • where either party to a mortgage application is separated or divorced, the following details should be supplied with the application;
    • The extent of maintenance being received or paid by the applicant.
    • The circumstances under which the maintanence payments can cease (typically age of majority of dependent children and/or remarriage).
    • Details of any payment(s) to be made in respect of the removal of spousal/partnership rights to the existing family home or other property which could have a bearing on ability to repay the mortgage.
    • That no onerous conditions exist.

Insolvency / Bankruptcy

A person who has exited insolvency / bankruptcy proceedings and had previously purchased a home may still be eligible for Local Authority Home Loan if as a result of insolvency or bankruptcy they had to sell or had been divested of their home.

Where any of the persons making an application previously purchased or built a dwelling in the State for his or her occupation but that person demonstrates, that they have sold, or have been divested of, that dwelling as part of a personal insolvency or bankruptcy arrangement or proceedings or other legal process consequent upon insolvency, then the previous purchase or building of the dwelling concerned shall not render the applicant(s) ineligible for a Local Authority Home Loan.

For more information see https://localauthorityhomeloan.ie/about/

2. Tenant Purchase Scheme

New eligibility criteria to the Incremental Tenant Purchase Scheme which enables tenants to purchase the local authority home they live in will take effect from 29 January, 2024. The changes to the qualifying criteria of the scheme will now mean those with an annual income of €11,000 will now be eligible to apply (replacing the previous income limit of €12,500). Amongst other benefits, this will make it easier for some older tenants to buy their homes if they have the financial means to do so.

In addition to changes in the income eligibility, the previous requirement in the case of joint applications that both tenants had to have been receiving social housing support for ten years has been changed and now only one tenant is required to fulfil the 10-year requirement.

These changes are based on Housing for All’s commitment to maintaining the right of social housing tenants to purchase their own home if they wish and are part of the work being carried out on the broader social housing reform agenda in order to bring consistency and fairness across the different schemes in this area.

The updated criteria are part of changes made to the Incremental Tenant Purchase Scheme. Under this scheme, tenants in a local authority home, can apply to purchase the home from the local authority at a discounted rate based on their income, with an incremental charge placed on the property which diminishes over time.

For more information see https://www.firsthomescheme.ie/product-type/tenant-home-purchase/ 

3. Help to Buy Scheme

The Help to Buy (HTB) scheme is designed to assist first-time buyers fund the deposit required to purchase or self-build a qualifying property to live in as their home. HTB provides for a refund of Income Tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid in the State for the previous four tax years, subject to limits outlined in the legislation (section 477C Taxes Consolidation Act 1997).

An enhanced HTB scheme was introduced in 2020 as part of a Government Stimulus package. The enhanced HTB relief has been further extended and is now set to expire on 31 December 2025. The enhancement provides that where applicants sign a contract for the purchase of a qualifying property, or make the first draw down of the mortgage in the case of a self-build property, during the period from 23 July 2020 to 31 December 2025, they will be eligible for increased relief under the HTB scheme to the lesser of:  (1) (2) (3) €30,000 (up from €20,000), or the amount of Income Tax and DIRT paid for the four years prior to making the  application, or 10% (up from 5%) of the purchase value or approved valuation for a self-build.

Types of Applicant

There are two types of applicants who can apply for the HTB scheme:

  1. First-time purchaser applicants  – where a contract is signed for the purchase of a new home between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2025 the information you provide at claim stage will be verified by your approved Qualifying Contractor. Once approved by Revenue, the refund will be paid to the approved Qualifying Contractor as part of the deposit required from the first-time purchaser.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your contractor is registered as a Qualifying Contractor prior to purchasing your home.
  2. Self Build – applicants may qualify for funding of up to 30% of the build cost of their home. The Help to Buy (HTB) scheme is available for self- build homes. If you are availing of the HTB the maximum amount you may be eligible for from the FHS will be 20% of the build cost.

For more information see https://www.revenue.ie/en/property/help-to-buy-incentive/index.aspx 

4. Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant

What the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant?

The Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant is a payment you can get if you are turning a vacant house or building into your permanent home or a rental property.

A grant of up to €50,000 is available. If the refurbishment costs exceed the standard grant of up to €50,000, a top-up grant amount of up to €20,000 is available. See below.

How to qualify

To qualify for the grant, you must:

  • have proof of ownership or evidence of active negotiations to buy the property (that is, confirmation of engagement from the estate agent or owner of the property) where you are seeking approval in principle for a grant
  • live in the property as your principal private residence or make it available for rent
  • have proof that the property has been vacant for at least 2 years and that it was built up to and including 2007

How to know if the property is eligible for the scheme

The grant applies to qualifying vacant properties in cities, towns, villages and rural parts of the country.

Other evidence and documentation you need to provide:

  • a quotation(s) in respect of the works proposed
  • an independent report confirming the property is structurally unsound and dangerous (if seeking top up grant for works to a derelict property) or confirmation that it is on the Derelict Sites Register, where applicable
  • any other supporting documentation that your local authority may request to support your application

For more information see https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/housing-grants-and-schemes/local-authority-housing-grants-and-supports/vacant-property-refurbishment-grant/ 

5. First Home Scheme

The First Home Scheme (FHS) aims to make home ownership achievable for thousands of individuals and families by bridging the gap for first-time buyers and other eligible homebuyers between their deposit and mortgage, and the price of their new home.

It is what’s known as a shared equity scheme. This means that homebuyers can receive funds from the Scheme in return for the FHS taking a percentage ownership in the property.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Scheme you must:

  • be over 18 years of age
  • be a first-time buyer or other eligible homebuyer
  • have Mortgage Approval with a Participating Lender
  • borrow the maximum amount available to you from one of the Participating Lenders (up to 4 times your income*)
  • not be availing of a Macro Prudential Exception (MPE) with a Participating Lender
  • have a minimum deposit of 10% of the property purchase price or build cost (for self-builds, equity in your site can contribute to your deposit.)

To be eligible for the Scheme the property must:

  • be a qualifying house or apartment OR a Self-build on a privately owned site OR a house or apartment you are currently renting and residing in and now, looking to purchase having received a Notice of Termination from your landlord, as the landlord is putting the property on the market
  • be a property in a private development OR on a site in your name in the Republic of Ireland
  • be your Principal Private Residence
  • be within the local authority property price ceiling for the property type

How much funding can the FHS provide?

  • the FHS can fund up to 30% of the property purchase price or build cost (for Self-builds)
  • this amount is reduced to 20% if you are availing of the Help to Buy Scheme (HTB). Details of HTB can be found on the Revenue’s website (www.revenue.ie), and examples, including the HTB can be found in the Homebuyers Guide on the Guides/Resources page
  • the minimum equity share is 2.5% of the property purchase price or build cost (for self-builds), or €10,000, whichever is higher

For more information https://www.firsthomescheme.ie/ 

6. Local Authority Home Loan

The Local Authority Home Loan is available nationwide from all local authorities. The loan is a normal Capital and Interest-bearing mortgage which is repaid by direct debit on a monthly basis.

You can borrow up to 90% of the market value of the property. Maximum market values of the property that can be purchased or self-built are:

  • €360,000 in Dublin, Kildare or Wicklow, or
  • €330,000 in Cork, Galway, Louth or Meath, or
  • €300,000 in Clare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Westmeath or Wexford,
  • €275,000 in Carlow, Cavan, Donegal, Kerry, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo or Tipperary.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above schemes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our conveyancing department or call us at 051-874-909 or email us at info@poc.ie.