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Affordable housing the best for first-time buyers
Affordable housing is the best way to get on to the property ladder - and
there is a rapidly growing supply of such homes becoming available around the
country. Kate McMorrow explains how to get one.
Affordable housing is going to be the hot topic this year. First-time buyers
are discovering - not before time - that this is by far the best route to a
foothold on the property ladder.
Forget the two-hour commute to the city and years scraping a deposit together,
just add your name to any local authority waiting list.
And cross your fingers. The number of applicants has grown to the extent that
some local authorities - notably Dublin City Council - hold a lottery when new
allocations come onstream.
These draws have taken on a festive spirit, with entire streets turning up to
cheer on the "home side" as names are pulled out of the hat.
There are two types of affordable housing: schemes built completely or partly
by the local authority and Part V, which refers to developments which received
planning permission after the legislation passed into law in December 2002.
Under this ruling, developers must hand over up to 20 per cent of their housing
units to the local council, some of which will be sold on to first-time buyers
at affordable prices.
Part V units are just beginning to be allocated, but councils around the
country have been producing affordable housing in partnership with reputable
builders for some years now.
Where exceptionally high land value pushes the price out of reach of a first-
time buyer - for example, large detached houses in Dublin 4 - the council can
negotiate with the developer to transfer their allocation to another site in
the same general area.
In all cases, the key word is "affordable". Applicants must earn €50,790 or
less per annum and prove their ability to repay the mortgage, which can be
arranged by the council.
Candidates cover a wide spectrum, from tradespeople to teachers, nurses and
civil servants, even a few trainee pilots, usually at the beginning of their
careers and on the lower rungs of the pay scale.
One of the biggest advantages of the Affordable Housing Scheme is the ease with
which cash-strapped first-time buyers can obtain funding for that first step on
the property ladder. When an offer is accepted, finance is arranged by the
local authority in the form of an annuity mortgage.
With Dublin City Council, a deposit of three per cent is normally required on a
maximum loan of €165,000 - a fraction of the amount expected in private
transactions. Banks have now jumped onto the affordable bandwagon, offering
mortgages to suitable candidates.
To establish priority among applicants, authorities use a points system.
Housing need and living or working in the locality carry most weight,
especially where demand is high.
With the largest waiting list in the country, Dublin City Council is tackling
the job of supply with enthusiasm, says senior executive officer Margaret
"We have plans and a substantive programme for the next number of years and
we'll continue to seek to increase supply. We're taking it seriously."
Top of the list with Dublin City Council are existing council tenants who will
be vacating a local authority property. The next category is applicants on the
council's housing list.
The remaining group is graded according to housing circumstances, income and
where they currently live.
In every case, applicants must be first-time buyers with an income on or below
€50,790. The lower the annual pre-tax salary, the more points awarded, with
those earning below €23,395 receiving the maximum of 10 points.
However, ability to meet monthly loan repayments is a key determining factor
when offers are made.
Housing associations and co-operatives play an important part in the supply of
When Poolbeg Quay was launched in Ringsend last autumn, the developers turned
out to be a group of local women with zero construction experience and buckets
They negotiated to buy the land from the council, persuaded an architect to
draw up plans on the basis of getting paid later and applied for a grant to
build over 50 apartments and townhouses.
A thousand locals paid €50 to join a co-operative and be in with a chance of
securing an affordable home in the area.
Since 1999, Dublin City Council has completed 550 housing units; a further 120
will be available early this year and 230 are currently under construction.
With the large amount of construction work in the docklands and in the Digital
Hub area between Cork Street and Heuston Station, hundreds of aspiring
homeowners will be housed through Part V over the next four years.
It costs €50 euro to go on the city council's waiting list for Part V and €30
to be in with a chance
€176,000 for their three-bed house
Adnan Siddiqi, his wife Rizwana and 16-month old daughter Laraib
(meaning "personality without doubt") are hoping to move into their three-
bedroom house in Scribblestown near Finglas next week.
Originally from Pakistan, Adnan studied accountancy in Dublin and works in the
"I'd been trying for the last three years to get a mortgage, but it was hard to
save about €25,000 with rent and a family. At the draw in September 2003,
there were 700 or 800 people chasing 76 houses. My name didn't come up but I
was fourth on the waiting list.
"A month later, the housing association Togáil rang me and gave me the good
news - someone had withdrawn and we got a three-bedroom house for
"I knew nothing about Finglas and was worried about what the area was like.
Dublin City Council suggested we go and see the development and this gave me
confidence. It's definitely a great area, just three or four miles from the
"I'm paying €1,000 a month rent for a house in Lucan. The mortgage for
the new house will be €846. And it will be ours."
© The Irish Times
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