With the pandemic and lockdowns, our housing market suffered greatly. Rents have increased to record levels while house prices have soared. Shortage of housing developments allied to the pandemic and general economic uncertainty have all factored in the rush for accommodation.
All this in the midst of PUP payments, redundancies and company liquidations. In this article, John Lowe of MoneyDoctors.ie gives the low down on what's available for rent and mortgage supplements, part of the housing grants allowances and government supports.
Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)
HAP was introduced in 2017 with the long-term goal of replacing Rent Supplement for those in need of ongoing housing assistance. Help is provided in the form of finance only – those in receipt of the supplement must find their own property. Although local authorities pay HAP directly to landlords, they do not source property for tenants.
If you are asked to switch from Rent Supplement to HAP and have received a letter from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to this effect, you must apply to do so within six weeks. In cases where a household applying for HAP in Dublin is homeless, there are processes in place to increase the rent limits.
Unlike with Rent Supplement, you may be entitled to HAP if you are in full-time employment.
Do I qualify?
In order to qualify for this payment, you must:
● Be on your local authority’s housing list.
You can find out anything else you need to know, including how to pay your landlord, the limits on cost of rent per county and per household size, as well as what being a HAP tenant means, by visiting the HAP website: http://hap.ie/
This means-tested supplement exists to assist those on low incomes who are struggling to afford the rental market. Although those in receipt of long-term Rent Supplement may be switched to HAP (as outlined above), there are instances where people still qualify for Rent Supplement.
Do I qualify?
In order to qualify for this supplement, you must:
● Have been in receipt of Rent Supplement in the year prior to your application.
● Of that year, have been living in private rental accommodation for at least six months; but your circumstances changed so drastically after the onset of your tenancy that you are no longer able to pay the rent to which you agreed at the beginning of your lease.
● Have been living in homeless accommodation for a minimum of six months of the previous year.
● Not work more than 30 hours per week, or be self employed.
● Not be in full-time education.
For more information, contact your local Social Welfare Office.
Rent to buy
Similar to a hire-purchase model for buying a car, a rent-to-buy scheme is an option afforded by some sellers through which buyers may rent a property for a defined period of time before being offered the chance to purchase it. As with a car, or a traditional home purchase, it is not unusual for an upfront payment to be part of the deal; this, along with the rental payments, may be deducted off the final price, should the dweller eventually opt to purchase the property.
The UK scheme starts with renting a property, paying the going rate for up to 5 years. After 2 years you have the option to buy the property. If you decide to buy you will receive 25% of the rent you have paid and 50% of any increase in the property’s value since you moved in to use as a deposit on the purchase.
In Ireland there is an upfront payment required to start the process of 2% of the proposed purchase price…non-refundable…some or all of the rent can be included as monies received towards the cost of purchasing the property. Roche Group are one company operating such a scheme… call them at 01 61406145.
For those unable to afford to own or rent their own home, or those with specific needs (such as members of the Traveller community, homeless people or people with disabilities), reliance on social housing through local housing authorities is the main course of action.
Property is either owned and managed by the local authority or by an approved housing body (such as as Housing Co-Operative, above); leased by the local authority and rented out to tenants; or acquired through a Rental Accommodation Scheme, where properties are rented from private landlords.
To see if you are eligible, for more information, or to apply for local housing, contact your local authority.
Mortgage to Rent Scheme
For homeowners at serious risk of losing their homes to foreclosure, the government Mortgage to Rent Scheme is a realistic option. While handing over the reins to someone else might sound like a last resort to those who have worked hard to own their own home, there is an option to buy back after five years, should your situation improve.
Homes being considered for this scheme must be worth no more than €395,000 if a house or €310,000 if an apartment or townhouse in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Louth, Cork or Galway; or €305,000 if a house or €220,000 if an apartment or townhouse anywhere else in the country.
Do I qualify?
In order to qualify for this scheme, you must:
● Qualify for social housing.
● Not own another property or have more than €20,000 in assets.
● Live in a property suitable to your needs, i.e. not be a couple living alone in a five-bedroom house.
● Have completed a Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process with your lender.
● Have a yearly income of less than €25,000-€35,000, depending on where you are in the country (you can view bands here)
The lender will pay up to €500 for your legal advice and €250 for financial advice from an accountant or Personal Insolvency Practitioner (114 in the country of which I am one of them).
You apply for social housing support with your Local Authority and agree to surrender ownership of your home in exchange for a tenancy agreement with a Housing Association or Local Authority – check the website www.mortgagetorent.ie.
Email me for further information. Finding a home is not easy.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.