Housing Section - Budget 2017

October 28th, 2015 - Pat Breen

HELP TO BUY will apply to contracts signed by first-time buyers to purchase a new home on or after 19 July 2016 until the end of 2019. It allows a rebate of income tax (not USC) paid by one or more qualifying buyers over the previous four tax years up to the value of 5% of the purchase price, subject to a maximum rebate of €20,000.

To qualify
- applicants must take out a mortgage of at least 70% of the purchase price
- if it is a joint purchase, both applicants must be first-time buyers
- no rebate will be available if the purchase price exceeds a certain threshold
Payments will be processed from January 2017 online at www.revenue.ie. An online ready reckoner will allow you calculate your rebate. The Central Bank has accepted that the rebate will be reckoned in full in the calculation of the deposit required.

• DEBT PROBLEMS: If you are having difficulty keeping up with payments it is vital that you immediately inform those you owe (utilities, banks, etc.) and seek advice. Options include:

• Money Advice & Budgeting Service (MABS) who advise and can negotiate with creditors (Tel: Ennis: 065 6841981 and Shannon 061 364022). If you are at risk of losing your home you can access free financial advice, legal advice and representation in proceedings through Abhaile a new scheme.

• Insolvency Service of Ireland helps people who owe money and cannot afford to pay to reach debt settlements (contact: info@isi.gov.ie, 076 106 4200).

• Utilities offer Easypay options and even pre-payment meters in some circumstances.
• Rental Accommodation Scheme
You can qualify for RAS if you are in need of housing and have been getting Rent Supplement (in general for a period of 18 months or more). Under RAS, the Council enters into a long-term contract with a Private Landlord and you pay an income related differential rent. If you take up work you still get a subsidised rent. If the Landlord withdraws, the Council is obliged to secure another tenancy for the family. (For Details: Tel: Clare County Council 065 6821616).
• Housing Assistance Payment is a new option from Councils which is being phased in for persons who have been long-term on Rent Supplement. Under HAP, the Council pays the landlord direct and the tenant pays the Council an income-related differential rent. Persons on HAP will also be eligible to go on the Council’s Transfer List. The rent caps apply but the Council can pay up to 50% more for placing a homeless family from emergency accommodation.
Older people or those with incapacities can get grants for home improvements from the Council, subject to income limits, but medical priority is likely to be a key test.
• Housing Aid For Older People: Up to 95% grant in owner-occupied homes, for persons aged 66 or over, to cover the costs of up to €8,000 in necessary improvements – rewiring, roof repair, central heating (where none). Annual income of all household members must be under €30,000 for the full grant, dropping on graduated basis to 30% for incomes €50,000-€60,000, but no grant after that.
• Mobility Aids: Up to 100% grant to cover the costs of up to €6,000 in works to address mobility problems, certified by a doctor (e.g. rails, ramps, stairlifts and level access shower) in owned or private rented homes where the annual income of all household members is under €30,000.
• Housing Adaptation (Disability): Up to 95% grant to cover the costs of up to €30,000 in works to adapt a home to suit the needs of a person with an enduring disability (e.g. downstairs toilet/shower, wheelchair adaptation, extension, etc.) in owned or private rented homes. The works must be certified necessary by a doctor and may require an Occupational Therapist Report. Annual income of all household members must meet the same test as for Housing Aid for Older People.
• WARMER HOMES: A Home Insulation Scheme for homeowners is available to pensioners and incapacitated people who are on Fuel Allowance, and to persons on Jobseeker’s Allowance for over 6 months with children under 7, or on FIS, through Energy Action (01-454 5464) and Warmer Homes Scheme (1800 250 204) who will process your application over the phone. Energy Action will insulate attics, draught-proof doors and windows, fit a lagging jacket and two energy saving light bulbs.
• Better Energy Home Scheme (tel: 1850 927 000) provides grants to homeowners for homes built before 2006: insulation of attic (€300), cavity wall (€300), internal wall (€2,400 (detached), €1,800 (semi or end-of-terrace), €1,200 (apartment (any) or mid-terrace), external wall (€4,500 (detached), €3,400 (semi or end-of-terrace), €2,250 (apartment (any) or mid-terrace); heating control with boiler upgrade (€700); heating controls upgrade only (€600); solar heating (€1,200). Along with the insulation works, you can get a grant of €50 for the required Building Energy Rating (BER). Grants will typically cover 20-30% of the full cost. Energy savings of up to 50% can be achieved. For external insulation, you should first apply to your local authority for a Declaration of Exemption from the need for planning perm