New rules to have minimal effect on Westmeath housing grants

Just 6 per cent of applicants for private housing grants in Westmeath will be affected by the new rules governing these, it was revealed this week.

The total fund available to Westmeath County Council for 2014 is €701,250, down just €1,000 from last year.

This money - which is 80 per cent funded by the Department of the Environment - is made available for private home owners to adapt their house for older people, people with disabilities, or people with mobiLity issues.

In 2013 there were 112 such grants made across Westmeath, at an average of €6,270 per claim.

The main change imposed since January 1 is that all incomes within the household will be included in assessing the grant. This would only have affected 6 per cent of applicants last year.

The maximum gross threshold has been reduced by €5,000 to €60,000 - a change whch would not have affected any applicant in 2013.

All applicants must now show compliance with local property tax requirements, and this certification can be acquired from the Revenue Commissioners by phone, or online.

However, claw-back provisions for a treated property sold within 15 years of a grant being paid are not expected to be implemented until 2015.

The maximum grant available has also been reduced, from €10,500 to €8,000, and the eligibility age limit has been bumped up a year to 66.

As is current practice, only essential repairs should be undertaken to make the property habitable for the person, and the replacement of windows, doors, or heating systems, for example, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Also, no extensions works will be provided unless all less costly alternatives have been considered.

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