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Figures from Revenue show most rebates used to buy homes in excess of €300,000 
More than 40 per cent of the first-time homebuyers who have availed of the Government’s help-to-buy scheme already had the necessary deposit to secure a mortgage, figures from the Revenue Commissioners show. 
The figures, provided by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin, show that 7,928 of the 19,478 approved claims to date were made by households that had a loan-to-value ratio of less than 85 per cent. This means they already had a deposit of at least 10 per cent. 
The scheme, which until recently provided tax rebates to first-time buyers of up to €20,000 or 5 per cent of a property’s value for homes priced at €500,000 or less, was introduced in 2016 as part of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy. 
The relief was increased last month as part of the July Covid stimulus programme to €30,000 or 10 per cent of the property value, whichever is the higher. 
The scheme’s primary aim was to stimulate the supply of more affordable homes within a certain price range and assist first-time buyers in getting a deposit. However, critics maintain it disproportionately benefits households at the higher end of the income distribution and supports high prices. 
The Revenue figures show that 56 per cent of help-to-buy recipients used the rebate to buy homes worth in excess of €300,000 while 22 per cent used it to buy properties worth €376,000 and above. 
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the median price paid for a property nationally in the 12 months to May this year was just under €300,000. 
“The figures show that many people who are getting it don’t need it,” Mr Ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman, said. He also questioned whether State supports should be used to help people buy homes that are above the median national house price. 
His comments echo those contained in a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office last December. It claimed the scheme was priced too generously and “supported a significant number of transactions that would have taken place without the scheme”. 
A spokesman for the Department of Housing said: “The help-to-buy initiative is designed to stimulate demand from first-time buyers for new houses in the housing market, to encourage house completions and to assist first-time buyers in accumulating a deposit for a new home.” 
In expanding the tax rebate as part of its July stimulus package, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said it would help “thousands more people get on to the property ladder”. 
The Revenue figures show that, up until the end of June, Revenue had received 42,072 help-to-buy applications, of which 19,478 have been approved. 
A county-by-county breakdown of approved claims shows Dublin accounted for the biggest single share (5,769), amounting to nearly 30 per cent, followed by Meath (2,350), Cork (2,162) and Kildare (1,952). 
The number of households availing of the scheme has been significantly higher than expected. Original costings suggested that the scheme would cost €130 million in total but, by June of this year, the value of approved and pending applications was more than twice that figure – at €289 million. 
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