Home for Life scheme could help those in mortgage arrears

Home for Life - the state-backed mortgage to rent finance scheme - has the potential to help a number of the 578 cases in Mayo reported to have over 720 days of mortgage arrears, according to the company's CEO. At the Housing Strategic Policy Committee of Mayo County Council this week, Home for Life's chief executive officer, Paul Cunningham, suggested that these arrears cases, which the Central Bank's Long-Term Mortgage Arrears in Ireland Report note as being 'in serious mortgage arrears', could be helped by the scheme.

The company was sanctioned by the Minister for Housing last year to act as a private commercial operator in the sector and is leading the drive to keep mortgage holders, who run in to unsustainable debt, in their current homes debt-free, as long-term tenants of the local authority.

Cunningham told the committee that under the scheme, a property is sold to Home for Life and then leased back to the state through the local authority, which in turn, sublets the home back to the home owner, who then pays an income-based rent to the local authority.

To qualify for the scheme, the home owner must be unable to make repayments on their mortgage, with the situation unlikely to change. The home owner must also be engaging with their lender, have completed a mortgage arrears resolution process with the lender and fall within the income limits for the area - in Mayo this is €25,000 net for a single person and €30,000 net for a family of up to three adults and four children.

The property must also be in negative equity or not be more than €15,000 in positive equity and the owner must own no other property, or have assets above the value of €20,000 - and must also have the long-term right to remain in Ireland. Additionally, the property must not exceed home value limits, which for Mayo, are €280,000 for a house or €215,000 for an apartment.

Cunningham also outlined that home owners who enter the scheme can buy back their house if their circumstances change. The price to pay would be the open market value at the time or the price the buyer paid for the property, including costs, with a claw-back applied (the value of which relates to time between the buyer purchasing it and the owner buying it back ). Owners will be given the opportunity to choose either option and the cost of both when and if they are in a position to purchase.

There was a warm welcome for the scheme from the members of the committee, with Cllr Blackie Gavin saying he was aware of one family who had availed of the scheme; it had brought them great relief to get out of the situation they found themselves in and to be able to stay in their own home.

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