Saturday 15 December 2018

A 'Rent to Buy' scheme could be a happy halfway house and give families security

Renters now account for more than 20pc of the population, and this is increasing as more are priced out of the property market amidst the worst shortage of stock in a generation. (Stock photo)
Renters now account for more than 20pc of the population, and this is increasing as more are priced out of the property market amidst the worst shortage of stock in a generation. (Stock photo)
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

We already have a Help to Buy scheme in operation, but the ever-increasing numbers of those in rental accommodation indicate that it hasn't been enough to help people who still can't get on to that vital first rung of the property ladder.

The results of the Irish Independent/REA Dublin Rental Survey show that almost all (95pc) of our increasing population of renters want out of rental accommodation for various reasons.

While Irish people have always leaned in preference towards ownership, the survey highlights that renters also have real concerns about security. The story might be different were renting cheaper - but none of this is the case.

Renters now account for more than 20pc of the population, and this is increasing as more are priced out of the property market amidst the worst shortage of stock in a generation.

One surprise to be found in the survey was the extent of support among those currently renting for some sort of a 'Rent to Buy' scheme, which would allow tenants to become owners. The monthly rent they pay would eventually end up as payment instalments, leading to ownership of a property.

A very high 81pc said it would be attractive for them to move into a home today within a commutable distance of the city and rent it for a few years until they were ready to buy it with a mortgage.

As more families rent (22pc in rental now have children), security of tenure becomes a key concern. It emerged that 19pc of tenants said their biggest concern about renting was the lack of security of tenure involved in renting, while 20pc said their biggest concern was uncertainty over cost, as rents continue to surge.

Rent to Buy would address both of those concerns by giving them both security of tenure in which to raise families and keep their children in the same schools, and it would allow a definitive plan to determine what will be paid over long-term periods.

Eventually, this sort of scheme, which has proven popular and successful in other countries, can lead to full ownership.

We could learn lessons from the previous failed Shared Ownership Scheme, which allowed candidates to pay half mortgage and half rent to the local authority, with a long-term view of buying the property out over a 30-year period. The parameters of that scheme were never realistic enough to make it popular.

If introduced here, a Rent to Buy scheme could provide a happy halfway house for those who crave a secure home at a secure price, with a long-term view possible that they could one day own it.

The secret is to create a model which is ultimately practical and realistic in what is demanded of tenants.

If the private sector is brought on board (this would likely suit vulture funds and some larger developers) then airtight legislation is required to protect the incumbent families, as well as the interests of the initial owner-investors.

Irish Independent

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