A home of your own: What is in the housing plan for under-40s?

Government Ministers insist that schemes are in place to help younger buyers, but what are they and do they work?

Many young people feel getting on the property ladder is a distant dream. But on Wednesday morning, Government Ministers insisted that schemes are in place to help younger buyers.

“There are a number of schemes that do help people buy a home. I want younger people to know – and they need to know – because when I talk to people there is often not that level of awareness; there are a lot of schemes there that can help you buy,” said Taoiseach Simon Harris at a press conference about the Government’s Housing for All plan.

The average age of a home purchaser in Ireland rose from 35 in 2010 to 39 in 2021, Central Statistics Office figures show.

The First Home Scheme and the Help to Buy grant were the “most obvious direct interventions by Government to help people with affordability”, Mr Harris said.


When asked about the difficulties faced by many younger people when trying to buy their own home, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said those who are renting or “are still living with their folks” have these schemes as options.

But what are the schemes, do they work, and what exactly is the Government’s plan for younger buyers and those under 40?

First Home Scheme

Designed to help first-time buyers bridge the gap between their mortgage and the price of a new home, the First Home Scheme involves the State and participating banks paying up to 30 per cent of the cost of a newly built home, in return for a stake in the property.

Houses with prices of up to €475,000 and apartments with prices of up to €500,000 are eligible, depending on their location. Figures show there have been 809 approvals and 262 homes purchased under the scheme in the first 12 weeks of this year. The Coalition has now committed an additional €40 million to the scheme.

Mr O’Brien said on Wednesday that four-in-10 people getting support to buy a house via the First Home Scheme are single people. Eligibility for the scheme was extended in early 2023, following the widening of eligibility criteria for homes in 30 of Ireland’s 31 local authority areas, with the price cap for eligible homes increasing by up to €75,000.

Help to Buy

Some 40,000 people have availed of the Help to Buy scheme, Ministers said on Wednesday. About 2,000 of these were in the first three months of this year, figures show. The scheme allows people to get back up to €30,000 or 10 per cent – whichever is the lower – of the value of the home they are buying from income tax and deposit interest retention tax (Dirt) they have paid over the past four years.

There has been criticism of Help to Buy, however. A review commissioned by the Department of Finance said the scheme is “poorly targeted with respect to incomes, location, house prices and other socioeconomic factors”. The main criticism is that Help to Buy is assisting those who could have bought a home anyway.

Rent pressure zones

The Taoiseach also referenced the rules around rent pressure zones (RPZs) as a measure that allows people to pay less monthly rent, helping them to save for a deposit to buy a home.

Under RPZ rules, in areas of high rent, landlords can only raise the rent by 2 per cent a year.

And yet for many, the relentless rise in rental prices is continuing as the market remains squeezed.

Figures show that almost 30 per cent of new tenancy rents across the State were more than €2,000 per month in the third quarter of last year, while in Dublin more than half of new tenancies were in excess of this figure.

Bulk buying

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that so-called “vulture funds” bought 6,000 homes across the country in 2022. Earlier this year, Mr O’Brien said he was “frustrated” to see Ryanair buying up most of the homes in a new estate close to Dublin Airport, which the airline planned to rent to crew.

The Government has moved to introduce changes in planning laws that would no longer facilitate such a purchase. Critics have argued, however, that the Coalition has not gone far enough.

Explaining the Government’s stance on Wednesday, Mr O’Brien said: “We have literally thousands of planning permissions now with conditions on them that they can only be sold to an individual. We affected that change and it is in law. This year we are investing €5 billion of everyone’s money in housing. To deliver the homes we need takes another €9 billion and I would just ask people where is that money coming from – that money comes from private investment. We need private investment too and we have to be clear on that.”

Further legislative change does not appear to be on the agenda for now.

Vacancy and refurbishment

The other option open to younger buyers is vacancy and refurbishment grants. The Vacant Property Refurbishment Fund was introduced by the Government in July 2022. The standard grant is €50,000 with a top-up of €20,000 when the property is confirmed by the applicant to be derelict.

Ministers have said that some 7,530 applications have been received in total and almost 60 per cent of them (4,376) have been approved to date. The figures show, however, that so far only 265 grants have been actually paid to applicants. Opposition parties have called on the Government to make the money available to applicants beforehand, rather than after the process.