‘I’ve nothing to offer the court now next week – I’m at the end’
Father-of-three Allan Thomas was assured by his bank, EBS, that the mortgage-to-rent scheme would help him save his home in Co Meath. It hasn’t worked out that way
Allan Thomas at his home in Kilmessan, Co Meath: ‘I feel like I’m making my family homeless. I don’t understand why this [scheme] didn’t work. Educated people told me this would work.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Despite the fact that his bank, EBS, recommended him for the mortgage-to-rent scheme – and, on paper, he appears to tick every box for it – his application did not succeed.
“We were living in an estate in Mulhuddart in Dublin,” he says. “It was a rough estate – there was a lot of open drinking and drug-taking. So we wanted to move to a better area for the kids. We couldn’t afford anywhere in Dublin, but we found this house and liked the area.
“I got a 100 per cent loan from EBS and we bought in 2007 for €265,000. The repayments were about €1,200 a month. I was working hard, six days a week, and bringing home about €900 a week. My partner, Gillian, works 20 hours a week in TK Maxx in Blanchardstown, so things were comfortable.”
The three-bedroom house is in a modern estate close to bus links and populated by families and professionals. The couple have decorated it well. Their daughters, aged 17 and 15, share one bedroom; their son, aged 11, has the second.
Allan’s hours began to be reduced in 2008, and by 2010 he was out of work. By May 2013, arrears on the mortgage had reached €29,802; by November 2013, with interest, this figure was €37,386; and by February this year, €57,590.
Allan gets €320 a week in social welfare, while Gillian brings home about€200 a week (though €50 of this is spent on petrol).
“By 2012 I knew I was never going to be able to pay off the arrears,” Allan says. “The stress of it all . . . At one stage Gillian and me almost split up. Last year, EBS said I should go for this mortgage-to-rent. They were sure I’d qualify.”
Meath County Council assessed the family as qualifying for social housing, and the house was valued at about €140,000. The Housing Agency accepted the application from EBS on Allan’s behalf and put it out to housing associations for expressions of interest. But on April 2nd, EBS called him to say the application had been “unsuccessful”.
“I called the Housing Agency and they said none of the housing associations had expressed an interest,” Allan says.
He contacted his TD, Peadar Tóibín, of Sinn Féin, who in turn made inquiries. It appears that the amount of rent that could be charged for the property made purchasing it economically unviable, due to the way the State subsidy to housing associations is calculated for the mortgage-to-rent scheme.
The subsidy a housing association gets to cover mortgage repayments on any dwelling it purchases under the scheme is calculated on the basis of the rent that dwelling could command on the open market. In an area where rents remain depressed, the State subsidy may be just too low to cover the housing association’s costs.
Tóibín says this is an aspect of the scheme that must be reformed. “It is ridiculous that a family like Allan’s is now facing homelessness when in every respect they are perfect candidates for mortgage-to-rent,” he says.
Allan accepted a long time ago that he would lose ownership of the home, but had believed mortgage-to-rent would allow his family stay put.
“It’s very stressful,” he says. “I have nothing to offer the court now next week. I’m at the end. I feel like I’m making my family homeless. I don’t understand why this didn’t work. Educated people told me this would work.”
EBS would not provide a comment on Allan’s case or on the mortgage-to-rent scheme.