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Housing

McDonald rules out Help-to-Buy 'cliff-edge' for buyers who 'baked in' deposit to their calculations

The Help-to-Buy scheme is not the answer in the long-term, says the Sinn Féín party leader.

MARY LOU MCDONALD has said people who have “baked in” the Help-to-Buy deposit into their calculations to buy a home don’t have to fear an overnight end to the scheme under a Sinn Féin government. 

Out on the campaign trail in Cabra with The Journal this morning, the Sinn Féin leader said housing is the biggest issue for voters on the doors. 

McDonald said it is particular worry for young people who she said are now considering moving abroad. 

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have continually highlighted that Sinn Féin are in favour of scrapping the Help-to-Buy scheme.

The Help-to-Buy scheme is aimed at first-time buyers to help them with the deposit for a new-build house or apartment or a self-build, up to a maximum of €30,000. 

However, Sinn Féin have criticised the scheme, stating that it is inflationary and is only adding to the cost of new build homes.

When asked about the message she wants to send to young people planning to buy their first home who might be concerned about the cessation of the scheme under a Sinn Féin government, McDonald said the evidence demonstrates that the scheme is not the answer to the problem. 

No cliff-edge 

She said Sinn Féin will “not create a cliff edge” for people who have applied for or who have been accepted for that scheme.

McDonald said she accepted that some first-time buyers have “baked that money in to your calculation”, stating that they won’t “wake up in the morning and say ‘where is that gone?”.

“Of course we’re not going to do [that]. We want people to be housed, but in the medium term and the longer term, it’s not the answer,” she added.

“We are conscious, of course, of people who will have made the calculation and done their sums on that basis. So no, we don’t want to cause a problem for that. But those are not the types of schemes that we would be extending. That would not be a feature in Sinn Féin policy,” she said.

In an interview with The Journal in 2022, McDonald said the Help-to-Buy scheme would get wound down under a Sinn Féin government. 

“We’d like to wind them down very quickly. But that has to go hand-in-hand with accelerated [housing] delivery,” she said two years ago.  

Affordable housing

In relation to comments that appeared in The Irish Times about what the average cost of a house in Dublin should cost, McDonald clarified that she was speaking about the “affordable” cost of a house under a scheme her party would like to roll out. 

She said the €300,000 figure was “the affordable price” for a new scheme that Sinn Féin wants to design “for a particular cohort of people who earn too much to be on the housing list and get a council house… but too little to be able to afford to get a mortgage and to access housing”.

“And we need to look after that – they’re stuck in the middle, they’re caught every way. So we have a scheme that’s around the smart use of public land that will make home ownership possible for that cohort,” she added.

McDonald said the recent Housing Commission report stated that a radical reset in housing policy is now needed, stating that the government parties are happy to “muddle along” thinking “it’ll be alright on the night”. 

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