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Help to Buy Scheme: Your Guide to Affordable Housing

Home in middle of Ireland with flag

Looking to buy a home but not sure you can afford one? You’re not alone. House prices are on the rise again in Ireland, meaning prospective first-buyers are struggling with being able to afford a home.

Help is available - we bring you all the details on:

  1. The Help to Buy Scheme (HTB)
  2. The Affordable Housing Scheme
  3. The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan
  4. The Mortgage Allowance Scheme
  5. Low-cost housing sites
  6. The Shared Ownership Scheme

Read on to find out what financial aid and tax rebates are available to help you get the keys in hand to your first house.

What is the Help to Buy Scheme?

a blue outline of a box with an orange tick in front of it

The Help to Buy Scheme is aimed at first time buyers who have difficulties coming up with the 10% deposit for purchasing a house.

It was launched in January 2017 and has been extended to end on 31 December 2022. Homeowners who signed contracts to purchase homes after July 19th 2016 can also apply for it.

In July 2020, the tax refund was increased to 10% on the value of a new build. Further cashback could also be had if the mortgage financing the property purchase is taken out with a bank offering cashback on mortgages. It cannot be applied to secondhand homes.

The upper limit for the Home To Buy tax rebate is now set at €30,000 and it can only be applied to new homes purchased from qualifying contractors.

The Help to Buy Scheme can also be used in conjunction with a Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.

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How does the Help to Buy Scheme work?

The 10% tax rebate is based on the income tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) purchasers have paid over the previous four-year period and is now capped at €30,000.

For houses purchased before January 2017, the limit set for the price of the new house is €600,000, while houses purchased afterwards have a limit of €500,000.

What happens if I sell a house I bought through the Home To Buy scheme?

The person, or one of the people in the case of a joint purchase, who purchased a first-time buyer house through the scheme must live in the house for at least five years or be liable for returning some of the tax refunded.

If for whatever reason, the purchaser or purchasers need to sell the property before the end of the initial five-year period, the following amounts of rebate must be repaid:

Date of Sale

% of rebate


Within 1 year of purchase


Up to €20,000

Within 2 years of purchase


Up to €16,000

Within 3 years of purchase


Up to €12,000

Within 4 years of purchase


Up to €8,000

Within 5 years of purchase


Up to €4,000

How do I apply for the Help to Buy Scheme?

In order to qualify for the help to buy scheme, you must take out a mortgage of at least 70% of the purchase price of the new house. The application is then made in two stages.

Stage 1

Once you have worked out the amount of tax rebate you can claim back, you can then apply for the help to buy scheme before choosing a house or mortgage. You must have filed forms 12 or 11 for the previous four years with Revenue before applying, and have no outstanding tax payments due for those years.

You can apply for the Help to Buy Scheme online through Revenue’s MyAccount (for PAYE employees) or ROS (for self-assessed taxpayers)., and applicants must also register for the Revenue MyEnquiries service.

You can then arrange a mortgage or house purchase through a qualifying contractor. The rebate will be paid directly to the qualifying contractor of the property you have chosen. At this stage of the process, you need only complete a declaration and choose which years you want to use for the refund.

You will then be issued with an application number and told the maximum amount of tax rebate you can claim.

Stage 2

You complete the second part of the Home To Buy claim when you have signed the contract for a house. You return to the application you had begun in stage 1, and upload proof of mortgage, a valuation report and a copy of the purchase contract.

If the property is a self-build, you will need to submit proof of the drawdown of the first part of the mortgage.

You will then need to confirm details such as the purchase price, estimated date of completion, mortgage details, and any money you have already paid towards the deposit. You will receive a claim reference which you will need to give to your qualifying develop or contractor.

The contractor will then confirm the veracity of any details you submitted and will directly receive the refund to put towards the deposit. Keep in mind that the amount refunded may differ from the maximum amount of tax relief you were provided within stage 1, as it is limited to 5% of the purchase price.

What is the Affordable Housing Scheme?

The affordable housing scheme is a scheme primarily aimed at lower-income households that seeks to enable first-time purchasers (who are eligible) to buy a home. As part of the scheme, newly constructed dwellings can be bought for much less than their current market value.

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In July 2021, a new Affordable Housing Scheme was approved by the government. While regulation details are yet to be announced, it is expected that there will be two new affordable housing schemes.

1- Local authority affordable housing purchase scheme

This affordable housing scheme is to help people on low-to-moderate incomes to buy homes at reduced prices. These newly built homes will be in areas where housing needs and affordability are an issue. This affordable housing scheme will primarily be for first-time home buyers. However, other groups, like people who have experienced relationship breakdowns or personal insolvency, may apply as well.

This affordable housing scheme will have local authorities have a stake in your home to cover the reduction in price. You will have the opportunity to buy back the local authority’s stake at any time, but are not obligated to do so. 

Each local authority will introduce its own scheme and manage the application process. See your local Department of Housing for more information about the local authority's affordable housing purchase scheme.

2- First Home affordable housing scheme

This affordable housing scheme is targeted more at first-time home buyers with moderate incomes to buy a new-build home at discounted prices. 

This affordable housing scheme will be available nationwide and will be called the First Home Scheme. Under this scheme, banks and the government are expected to pay 30% of the cost of the new home. They will maintain a stake in the home until you decide to pay it back although, you are not obligated to pay back the bank or government stake in the home.

You can get additional information in the Housing for All plan, which outlines the government housing strategy for Ireland to 2030.

Previous incarnations

All previous versions of affordable housing schemes were abolished in 2011, in favour of a bigger emphasis on social housing. Applicants for the scheme prior to 2011 had to satisfy a range of criteria and were then entered into a lottery system.

The affordable housing scheme in Dublin

Dublin City Council announced in June 2019 that they would be divvying up three council sites among construction companies, for affordable housing to be built. The three sites are located in Ballyfermot (1) and Ballymun(2).

To give an example of how much affordable housing can cost, estimated prices for newly constructed dwellings on the two sites are:


One-bed apartment


Two-bed duplex/house


Three-bed duplex/house

€176,000 - €200,000

Four-bed house



One-bed apartment


Two-bed duplex/house


Three-bed duplex/house


This new version of the affordable housing scheme is aimed at workers in the no man’s land where they do not earn enough to qualify for a mortgage but receive a high enough salary to disqualify them from social housing.

Detractors of the current housing scheme have pointed out that as one of the qualifying criteria is that applicants must have been living in the surrounding area for at least 12 months and that it is excluding residents who have already been priced out of the area and forced to move across - or even outside- Dublin.

In September 2019 South Dublin County Council called for expressions of interest in 500 new homes aimed at being built in South Dublin.

300 of the homes are planned for the Killnarden area in Tallaght, with 135 for the Clonburris Strategic Development Zone, and the remaining 100 are set to be built in Rathcoole. Purchase prices have for these new developments have not been set yet, but are estimated to be less than €300,000.

On the South Dublin County Council website, there is also a notice of two and three-bedroom properties available under the Affordable Housing Scheme throughout the county. Applicants must satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • Be first-time buyers.
  • User the Affordable Housing Loan Scheme to purchase a property.
  • Must have under €36,800 income in the previous year.
  • Must have been employed for six months minimum, or one year for self-employed applicants.

For application forms and queries, contact South Dublin County Council on 01 4149000, or via email at

What is the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme?

a magnifying glass hovering over a document

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was rolled out in February 2018. It consists of a mortgage that is backed by the government at a reduced interest rate and can be used to obtain up to 90% funding of the market value of properties.

This affordable housing scheme is only for first time buyers and can be used in conjection with the Help to Buy Scheme. However, unlike the Help to Buy Scheme, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan can be used for both new and second-hand properties.

There are some rules about the properties which qualify for the mortgage:

  1. The maximum size of properties eligible for funding under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme is 175m2.
  2. The maximum market value of eligible homes is €320,000 in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow, dropping down to €250,000 in the rest of the country.
  3. Mortgage repayments must not be more than one-third of your household’s income.
  4. You must be an Irish resident or have indefinite leave to remain.

To check how much of a loan you could get and what the repayments could be, you can use the Home Loan Calculator. For more information, contact your local county council.

Am I eligible for a Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan?

In order to qualify for a Rebuilding Ireland home loan, you must meet the following criteria and be:

  • Buying a home for the first time.
  • Between 18 and 70 years of age.
  • Have been continuously employed for the previous two years (primary applicant).
  • Have been continuously employed for the previous year (secondary applicant). In some cases, secondary applicants on long-term social welfare payments may be considered.
  • Able to give evidence of two previous refusals for mortgages.
  • Earning less than €50,000 per year for single applicants, with a maximum of €75,000 for two applicants.
  • In good credit standing.
  • Able to provide 10% of the property price.
  • Willing to use the property as your primary residence.

What are the interest rates on mortgages?

The interest rate applied depends on both the length of the mortgage, and whether it’s a fixed or variable rate. Note that for a 25 year mortgage, only a fixed interest rate is available.

  1. For mortgages of up to 25 years, 2% fixed rate (APR 2.02%)
  2. For mortgages of up to 30 years, 2.25% fixed rate (APR 2.27%)
  3. For mortgages of up to 30 years, 2.3% variable rate (APR 2.32%)

These rates are current as of October 2019, however, the variable rate will change with market fluctuations.

What is the APR?The APR is the Annual Percentage Rate applicable to money you borrow. It is recalculated each year depending on the principal still owed.

To meet all the terms of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme, you must also make sure to sign up to the local MPI (Mortgage Protection Insurance) scheme, which will be added on to your monthly repayments.

How do I apply to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme?

You can obtain the application form from your local authority or download it online. There may be some information requested on the application form that you do not have yet, such as the address of the house you wish to buy, or your solicitor.

You can leave these spaces blank but must include the country or area you are looking in, and that you will confirm your solicitor's details at a later point. You will also need to submit supporting documentation, included in the application form under the section “checklist for applicants”.

The form is then submitted in person to your local authority after making an appointment. If you require any additional information or clarification, you can contact the helpdesk on 051 349 720.

What is the Mortgage Allowance Scheme?

The mortgage allowance scheme is meant to enable social housing tenants get a mortgage or directly purchase a house. It is an allowance of up to €11,450 which will be paid to the mortgage lender over a period of five years in order to reduce the mortgage repayments for that period.

It can be applied against mortgages from commercial agencies, such as banks, or mortgages sourced from a local authority.

Who is eligible for the Mortgage Allowance Scheme?

  • Local authority tenants who wish to return their present house to local authorities and are not buying a house under the Shared Ownership Scheme.
  • Housing association tenants who have held a tenancy for more than one year under the Rental Subsidy Scheme.

The minimum mortgage amount necessary to qualify under the scheme is €38,092.14 and the house must meet minimum standards as to be adequate for the purchaser’s needs.

The allowance will be allocated on a sliding scale, with more being paid to the lender in the first year, and less in the fifth and final year.













How can I apply to the Mortgage Allowance Scheme?

Applications can be made through local authorities, which also have the application forms.

Low-cost housing sites: what are they?

wallet with bills and coins

Low-cost housing sites are sites provided by local authorities at a substantially reduced cost to help people in need of sites to construct housing. Local authorities decide the cost of the site and may provide financial support if any development work is necessary prior to construction being able to commence.

It is worth keeping in mind that if you buy a low-cost housing site and then sell your house within a ten-year period, you will need to pay the housing authority the difference in the initial site value and the new market value.

After ten years, the amount decreases by 10% each year until after 20 years, when no fee will have to be paid.

Who can qualify for a low-cost housing site?

While the list is not exhaustive, and qualifying may be subject to further conditions, in general, if you fall into any of the categories below you can apply for low-cost housing.

  • You may be a local authority tenant who will return your present house to the local authority.
  • You may be a tenant for more than 12 months of a housing association under the Rental Subsidy Scheme.
  • You may be registered on a housing waiting list.
  • You may be a member of a co-op or non-profit housing group where a minimum of 75% of the members are tenants, tenant purchasers or on a waiting list for housing.
  • You may be involved in a group shared ownership project.

How can I apply for a low-cost housing site?

To find out more information, such as whether you are eligible or not, and discover how to apply for a low-cost housing site, contact your local housing authority.

What is the Shared Ownership Scheme?

The Shared Ownership Scheme was a scheme aimed at helping citizens who could not afford to buy a home all in one go. It allowed citizens to buy a proportion of a home, with the local authority owning the rest of it.

Payments were then made to increase the proportion owned by the purchaser until it was owned by them in its entirety within 30 years of first purchasing it under the Scheme. The scheme ceased to operate in 2012.

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