Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (880)

Olwyn Enright


1001 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if any exemptions were given in relation to applications for the first-time buyer’s grant for those who had built their houses in the time but failed to apply in time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2088/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

In terminating the new house grant, the Government has sought to ensure fair treatment by ensuring that people who had already made commitments in the form of signed contracts or by the pouring of foundations or had occupied their houses on or before 14 November 2002 were given an opportunity to apply for the grant. In providing a grace period up to 4 December 2002 for cases such as these, first-time buyers who were at the most advanced stage of purchase or building are being facilitated as far as possible.

Regulations setting out the circumstances on which new house grants would be paid after 14 November 2002 came into force on the day of the announcement. My Department published an advertisement in the national press on 15 November 2002 setting out the conditions for new house grant payment as stipulated in the regulations. A further reminder was published in the press on Friday, 29 November 2002. Both press advertisements clearly stated that the closing date for receipt of applications was 4 December 2002.

A total of 13,827 new house grant applications were received in the housing grants section of my Department in the three week period between 15 November 2002 and 4 December 2002. However, because of the difficulties that have been faced by some housing grant applicants in meeting the deadline of completing and occupying their new houses, I concluded that the fairest approach was to extend the deadline for completion, occupation and receipt of a request for payment of the grant in my Department to Friday, 2 April 2004. In returning their request for payment by the new deadline, applicants will have to produce evidence of occupation. It should be emphasised that this extension applies only to those who submitted valid applications received prior to the application deadline of 4 December 2002. Where all other conditions of the scheme are met, these applicants now have until Friday, 2 April 2004 to complete and occupy their house and return a request for payment to the Department. No exemptions were or will be provided for applications which do not respect these well publicised deadlines.