The increased requirement for private housing grants and subsidies of over €19 million referred to in the question arose from an increased volume of payments in 2003 under the first-time buyer's grant for new houses, in an increased demand under the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes.
The new house grant for first-time owner occupiers was abolished with effect from 14 November 2002. However, where a contract to purchase a new house or a contract to build was entered into on or before 14 November 2002, or in the case of a "self build" house where the foundations were poured on or before 14 November 2002, grant applications were accepted up to close of business on 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. The deadline for the completion and occupation of the house was later extended from 13 November 2003 to 2 April 2004. These arrangements led to a large increase in the number of grants to be paid in 2003. The allocation for the scheme was supplemented and €11.46 million was paid on top of the original estimate of €32.38 million.
Demands under the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes also proved higher than anticipated in 2003, and the original Exchequer allocation of €40.75 million was consequently increased by over €8.5 million to facilitate payments. A review of the disabled persons grant scheme has been under way in my Department and will be completed shortly.
The following table gives a breakdown of estimates and outturn for 2003 for the schemes.