THE Government is to consider extending a rent-to-buy scheme to all local authorities in an effort to shift the stock of unsold affordable homes.
Under the scheme, tenants have an option to buy the home they are renting for an agreed price after a set number of years -- and the rent they have paid is offset against the cost of the property.
Announcing details of a pilot project in Dublin City yesterday, Housing Minister Michael Finneran said that some city and county councils were unable to sell units and that he would decide by the end of the year if the scheme should be rolled out nationally.
The move comes because of the collapse in the housing market which at one point left city and county councils with 3,700 unsold properties.
Developers have offered similar schemes in an attempt to shift unsold stock, but this is the first time a local authority has engaged in a similar process.
New figures show that just over 1,150 remain unsold, with almost half the units in Dublin (423) and Cork (104).
Yesterday, Mr Finneran launched a new rent-to-buy scheme for Dublin City Council which will result in 91 units being sold at a discount to the market price. Under the scheme, the affordable home can be rented for up to three years at a discounted rate. The applicant has the option to purchase at any time during this term at an agreed affordable purchase price.
Some 91 units are available in three developments -- Prospect Hill in Finglas, which will have 45 units, Herberton in Rialto (16 units) and Park View in Poppintree (12 units). They include apartments and duplex units.
If the properties are sold, the scheme could be rolled out to other local authority areas.
"First off, it can only apply to local authorities who have unsold affordables and have tried to deal with the existing criteria we have laid down to sell off units, like advertising and long-term leasing," Mr Finneran said.
Senior executive officer with the council, Tony Flynn, said the scheme was devised because people interested in purchasing a home said they could not save money for a deposit because they were renting in the private market.
"Taking that into consideration, we had a look at the private market and tried to come up with a scheme to suit affordable market applicants," he said.
"We have come up with a methodology here which basically should alleviate some of the concerns out there."
The council said that hundreds of people had inquired about the scheme yesterday.
Paul Melia and Patricia McDonagh
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