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Families still 'in limbo' despite Minister's assurance home loan scheme funding 'will be honoured'

The Housing Minister said he does not know why Louth County Council has decided not to issue loans that are already approved.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

SOME APPLICANTS FOR the government’s home loan scheme who have already been approved are still waiting for their loans, despite government assurances that the funding is available.

Earlier this week, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy told the Dáil that the government has told local authorities to honour every loan that they approved.

“Only €140 million has been drawn down from the initial tranche of €200 million of funding that was provided under the Rebuilding Ireland home loan. We have contacted every local authority and said that every approval that has been given will be honoured,” he said.

We have told them not to wait for an announcement from central government because there is still funding in the initial tranche, but a second tranche is needed because this scheme has proven to be so successful. Every local authority is meant to be issuing and approving all loans up until the point of draw-down.

He was responding to a question from Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster who said she had been told by Louth County Council that it is awaiting funding from central government for loans that have already been approved.

“It continues to state that the council is not in a position to release those funds at the moment as it has not received its allocation from central government,” she said.

Under the scheme, which was launched in January last year, first time buyers who have had applications rejected by banks can borrow up to 90% of the market value of a property. Maximum market values are set at €320,000 in the counties of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow, and €250,000 in the rest of the country.

The scheme applies to any home, and its broad eligibility criteria means that individuals with an income up to €50,000 or a joint income of €75,000 can apply. 

Murphy told Munster that he cannot say why the council has decided to “make this decision about these applications but it is not because it is waiting for any information from us”.

The Sinn Féin TD accused the minister of “spin and stunts” and her line of questioning was backed up by Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien. He said the Oireachtas housing committee had has been asking these same questions about the scheme.

“The local authorities are not releasing the funding because they do not believe that they will get the funding,” he said.

“I will turn specifically to an announcement that the Minister, Deputy Murphy, made in September 2018 about the establishment of the Land Development Agency, LDA, which was the big idea to deliver 150,000 homes over the next 20 years,” he said.

Yesterday at the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, I asked the head of the Housing Agency if any land had been transferred to the LDA. None has because we are still waiting for legislation. No primary legislation has been published.

According to Munster, there are 17 applicants in Louth who have been approved for these loans, but the council has told her the funding has not yet been released by the government.

“These are young people, and young couples, who are trying to make a start in life by buying a home. They have been turned down for mortgages by the banks, and now they are facing this entirely unnecessary delay,” she said.

“They are from a generation that is bearing the brunt of the government’s incompetence in the provision of housing. People who have been approved for these loans have saved up and are waiting anxiously for central government to deliver under the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme.

The Sinn Féin TD said one of the applicants has received notice to quit from her landlord and will have to leave her rental accommodation next month.

She has her loan approved, but she is stuck in limbo, facing homelessness, because the government hasn’t released funding.

Last week the minister admitted that there has been a “lack of consistency” in how the loan scheme has been applied across local authorities. 

He said had a review of the operation of the scheme carried out and some reforms are being examined for possible application in a future iteration of the scheme. 

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