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Fianna Fail's €10k giveaway plan for first-time buyers

FG also commits to increasing Help to Buy but hasn't decided what figure should be yet


RIP-OFF RENTAL: Darragh O’Brien criticises investors. Photo: Tom Burke

RIP-OFF RENTAL: Darragh O’Brien criticises investors. Photo: Tom Burke

RIP-OFF RENTAL: Darragh O’Brien criticises investors. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fail is pledging to give first-time buyers €1 for every €3 they save for a mortgage as part of a radical new plan to make home ownership a reality for thousands of young families.

The new SSIA-style savings scheme would be capped at €10,000 per person and run in conjunction with the Help to Buy scheme which the party would expand to allow homeowners claim up to €25,000 from the State off the cost of a new house.

The Fianna Fail policy would mean a first-time buyer could potentially get up to €35,000 in State support when buying a new home if Micheal Martin's party was in Government after the General Election.

The first major policy announcement of the General Election comes after Fine Gael took down a political attack ad from Twitter in which they accused Fianna Fail of having no new policies.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael's election manifesto will include a commitment to increase the amount that can be claimed under the Help to Buy scheme, but the party said it had not decided how much they would increase it by.

Fianna Fail estimates its new SSIA saving schemes will cost around €250m a year and the party expects 25,000 will sign up to the initiative annually.

The party also plans to increase the income caps on the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme which is capped at €50,000 for a single person and €75,000 for a couple.

They will also make a commitment to abolish dormitory-style emergency accommodation for the homeless and reduce the bureaucracy experienced by local authorities seeking to build social housing.

Fianna Fail's commitments on housing will be

made when the party launches its election manifesto this week.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien said home ownership has "absolutely plummeted" because Fine Gael prioritised investors over first-time buyers.

"We are well behind the European average for home ownership because Fine Gael are pushing people into a rip-off rental market that's there," Mr O'Brien told the Sunday Independent.

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"Yes there is a place for investors in the market but Fine Gael has laid down the red carpet for them and prioritised them over first-time buyers and public housing," he added.

Mr O'Brien, who is running in Dublin Fingal, said Fianna Fail would immediately move to cut the red tap faced by local authorities seeking to build social housing by increasing the so-called discretionary cap from €2m to €6m.

This would allow local authorities to build more houses without going through a time-consuming Department of Housing approval process.

"If we're elected, we will bring that in straight away and that means schemes up to €6m or 50 homes would be built by local authorities without going through endless red tape and I want to expand that to €10m over time," Mr O'Brien said.

Almost 16,000 have received grants under the Help to Buy scheme since it was introduced in 2016.

This scheme allows first-time buyers to claim up to four years of their income tax back in order to get a portion of their deposit on homes costing up to €500,000.

The grant is a refund of PAYE and DIRT which applies to both for new builds and self-builds.

Claimants can get 5pc of the purchase price up to a maximum value of €20,000.

In October last year it was announced that the scheme was to be extended "in its current form" for another two years in a bid to provide "certainty" to people struggling to afford to buy homes across the country.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe revealed the decision in his Budget 2020 speech to the Dail, saying: "I am extending the scheme in its current form for two years until 2021."

Last week, Fine Gael said it would not change the scheme to include previously owned homes and would not allow people buying their second home apply for the grant. "We will include a commitment in the manifesto to increase the amount that can be claimed," a spokesperson said.

"This is in recognition of the challenges faced by renters in particular to put together a deposit."

He also noted that more than 20,000 new houses were built last year and said the Government expected this to reach 25,000 this year.

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