Divorced people will get a second chance to be home owners after a relationship breakdown under measures designed to recognise how “Ireland has changed”.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said housing designed only for nuclear families does not meet “the reality of the world we live in”.
New proposals will treat divorced and separated people, who no longer have a stake in the family home, as first-time buyers in certain cases.
Mr O’Brien was speaking as Ireland will this weekend mark 25 years since divorce was legalised, following a heated 1995 referendum to lift the constitutional ban on the dissolution of marriages.
Divorced and separated people, after they move out of the family home, can often struggle to raise the 20pc deposit required as second-time buyers while paying high rents.
People who end their marriages later in life can also struggle to be considered for a mortgage at all.
Under new plans, set to come into force from April, people who are divorced or separated will be eligible for the state-backed loan schemes.
It is believed this is the first time Irish government housing policy has specifically referenced divorced and separated people.
Mr O’Brien told the Irish Independent: “Housing has traditionally been viewed through a nuclear-family type prism and that’s just not the reality of the world we live in.”
Family law solicitors, and those who advise people through divorces, have said the family home can often become the most contentious part of a legal separation due to the ongoing housing crisis.
Fears that the person who first leaves the home during a separation may never be able to return can increase tensions as relationships end.
In many cases, the family home can be sold as part of a divorce as neither partner is able to afford the mortgage.
Up until now, divorced or separated people were not explicitly included in housing schemes designed to help first-time buyers on to the housing ladder, although it is understood that discretion was used in some cases.
Now the Government will include divorced and separated people among those eligible under schemes like the Local Authority-led Affordable Purchase Scheme or the First Home Shared Equity Scheme.
Mr O’Brien said that while in opposition and since becoming housing minister, he had “listened to people in my own constituency and elsewhere who have talked about being precluded from certain schemes or initiatives”.
“They were people whose marriages had broken down and they no longer had a stake in the family home, but when it came to housing they weren’t considered in the same way first-time buyers were,” he said.
“That’s why it was important to me that a ‘fresh start’ principle was included in our Housing for All plan, which means that people who are divorced or separated and have no interest in the family home will be eligible for the state-backed schemes such as the Local Authority-led Affordable Purchase Scheme or the First Home Shared Equity Scheme.
“The changes we made to the Local Authority Home Loan make it easier for single people to avail of a state-backed mortgage for a new, second-hand or self-build home – the fresh start principle applies here also.
“So we realise that Ireland has changed over the last few decades and people’s housing needs have evolved and we’re addressing that.”
The schemes were included in the Government’s Housing for All plan announced last year. Under the First Home Shared Equity Scheme, the State would pay up to 30pc of the cost of a newly built home in return for a stake in the property.
New homeowners would take out a mortgage for the remainder of the cost.
After the scheme was announced, the Central Bank raised concerns it could push up house prices.
Central Bank governor Gabriel Makhlouf said it would have to “wait and see” what effect the scheme would have on prices.
The scheme is expected to come into effect in the second quarter of this year.
The Local Authority-led Affordable Purchase Scheme is designed to reduce the cost of a new home for people on low to moderate incomes.
New homes are being built in areas where demand and prices are high.
Like the First Home Shared Equity Scheme, the scheme would involve local authorities having a stake in the homes to help reduce the price.
While this scheme was expected to be available from the end of last year, it is understood properties are starting to come on stream shortly.
Local authorities will be accepting applications if and when the housing developments are ready.