As many as 7,000 households in mortgage arrears could be helped to stay in their homes amid a relaxation of the rules for the mortgage-to-rent (MTR) scheme.
Changes announced by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on Monday include increases to purchase-price thresholds and positive equity limits which will see more homeowners in difficulty able to avail of the scheme.
The MTR service is on offer to people who have borrowed from commercial private lending institutions for their property and are at risk of losing their homes due to mortgage arrears.
Successful applicants to the scheme will no longer own the property but they can continue living in the homes as a social housing tenant.
There is also an option of buying back the home if the person’s financial circumstances allow.
David Hall, the chief executive of the iCare Housing organisation, which offers MTR, said there are 20,000 households in mortgage arrears, of which about 16,000 are at risk of losing their home.
He said that at present up to 4,000 households are eligible for MTR, but this will probably rise to 6,000 or 7,000 due to the changes to the scheme.
Mr O’Brien said on Monday that the purchase-price thresholds for eligibility have been increased, giving the example of homes in Dublin and Cork, where the threshold has gone from a purchase price of €395,000 to €450,000.
New allowable positive equity limits for householders seeking MTR have also been set – with the highest limit being €35,000 in Dublin and other parts of the country, up from €15,000.
The Minister said this will mean the scheme is accessible to more people, and he said he wanted to see at least 1,000 households per year helped by it.
He said: “I want more people to have more certainty and that they’re not going to lose their homes and that’s why we’re making these changes which will be effective from the 14th of February.”
Mr O'Brien and Mr Hall were joined at the announcement by Lucan resident Dean Kehoe, who has availed of the MTR scheme.
He got into financial difficulty having bought a home for €322,000, but has been able to stay in his home as a result of MTR.
He said he wanted to tell people in a similar situation that “there is hope” and “don’t bury your head in the sand”.