Affordable housing scheme: do you qualify?

Kieran and Fiona Pardy will soon be signing mortgage papers for a new semi-detached three bedroom home in Cork city. They expect to pay 100 euros per week on their mortgage, less than half what they used to pay out in rent.

For the Pardy family, finding a home in an affordable housing scheme, was a lucky break. Like many other houseseekers in this country they were unable to get a footing on the property ladder.

Now that the couple have ticked that box, they can concentrate on other areas of their lives, such as planning for the future of their baby boy.

"It was an uphill struggle trying to buy our own home. The banks were not willing to give us a big enough mortgage to do it," explained Mr Pardy, who earns in excess of the average industrial wage.

The affordable housing scheme, which is open to first-time buyers, will make it possible for anyone earning €32,000 per year or under to buy homes at the cost value of the property, rather than the market value.

Those who sign up under the scheme will also receive a first time buyer's grant of €3,810, and purchasers with an income of up to €25,000 will benefit from a significant subsidy, which will reduce monthly mortgage payments.

At Glenview Park, across the road from Collins Barracks on Cork's northside, 52 homes are being built as part of the city's first affordable housing scheme. The Pardy family have been living there for the last three months, paying rent at €100 per week.

"We were trying for years to get our own place," said Mr Pardy. "It's spacious, bright and is fully fitted with all the essentials. We will go with a fixed rate on the mortgage."

According to auctioneer Joe McCarthy the affordable housing scheme will help gardai, teachers, nurses and young professionals to buy their first home.

He has had a bird's eye view of the problems created for middle income earners by escalating house prices in recent years.

Introduced as part of the Planning and Development Act 2000, all new housing schemes now have up to 20% of units allocated for social and affordable housing. These units are slowly beginning to come on stream.

Many of the local authorities around the country have opted to break this figure down to 15% affordable housing, and 5% social housing.

"I would advise people who haven't been able to buy property due to high prices to get in contact with their local authority for information on affordable housing schemes," said Mr McCarthy, of Irish and European Auctioneers.

The subsidy per annum available to buyers under the scheme ranges from €1,300 to €2,550, depending on which income bracket the purchaser falls into.

For example a home owner with an income of €23,680 would get an annual subsidy of €1,300 towards his or her mortgage repayments. On a mortgage of €121,340, this home owner would end up paying €429.71 per month on the variable rate.

With interest rates predicted to go up this year, most applicants of the affordable housing scheme are expected to opt for a fixed rate mortgage.

In the case of two income households, potential buyers can use a simple method to see if they qualify for the scheme.

Multiply the income of the main earner in the last tax year by 2.5, and then add the subsidiary income. If the overall figure is under €80,000, then contact your local authority for more details.

The first phase of the largest development of homes under the affordable housing scheme in this country sold within the space of two weeks in May in Dublin.

The development of 720 homes at Castlecurragh, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, comprises a mixture of market value properties and homes being sold under the affordable housing scheme.

"It didn't surprise us that over 120 units were snapped up so quickly," said Dick Brady, of Fingal County Council. "All we have left of the first phase are one-bedroom units selling for €100,000."

He pointed out these homes were situated within a mile from Blanchardstown, which was a major draw for buyers, and added people on the local authority waiting list for affordable housing were the first to be given the option to buy.

"There were about 300 on the list and some of them signed up straight away," he said.

"But many on the list have decided to wait for homes in other parts of the city."

In order to avoid property speculators from buying one of the affordable housing properties with a view to selling it a year or two later, certain conditions have been attached to the sale of these homes.

If a house purchased under the scheme is sold within ten years, the vendor will have to pay back the local authority the same percentage that they got for free at the purchase of the property.

For example, a home which was bought for €100,000, but had a market value of €120,000 at the time, could be sold for €150,000 a few years later. The vendor would then have to reimburse the local authority 20% of the sale of the property.

The affordable housing scheme is just beginning to grab media headlines, as local authorities around the country launch new developments.

For families like Kieran and Fiona Pardy who are already settled in their new homes under the scheme, paying €100 per week on a mortgage is a breath of fresh of air.

News is spreading quickly about the advantages of this scheme, which will give thousands of people in the next year the chance to own their first home.

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