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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Help to buy options in Northern Ireland

NI Co-ownership has recently announced some changes to its eligibility criteria. With this in mind, we take a look at some of the other options available to support people into homeownership.

Of course, homeownership is not always the most suitable option for a person and anyone who is considering buying a home should ensure that they have received comprehensive, reliable and independent financial advice and that they have been stress-tested against any affordability shocks, such as a change in circumstances or an interest rate rise.


Shared ownership schemes allow a person to purchase a portion of a property and to rent the remainder.

You can apply to buy a home through co-ownership if

  • you are over 18 and live in the UK
  • you do not currently own any property or land anywhere
  • you will live in the property as your only residence and will not use the property for business pruposes
  • you have an adequate right to reside in Northern Ireland
  • you have had no payday loans or home credit within the last 12 months
  • you have no outstanding bad credit, such as CCJs or defaulted loans, at the time you apply
  • you could not afford the property without using the co-ownership scheme
  • the property you want to buy is not valued at more than £165,000.

The full list of eligibility criteria is available from the NI Co-ownership website


FairShare is a relative newcomer to the shared ownership scene in Northern Ireland. Apex, Choice and Clanmil housing associations operate this service with funding from the Affordable Homes Loan Fund.  The scheme works on a similar model to co-ownership, with applicants needing to buy at least 50% of the property and renting the remainder from one of the partner housing associations. 

Unlike co-ownership, FairShare has lists of properties which are available to purchase through the scheme, although applicants can also suggest a property for the scheme. Many of the pre-approved properties are new builds.

Mortgages are available through selected lenders.  There is no application fee for FairShare but the applicant will have to pay all legal costs and any mortgage application fees.

Help to Buy ISAs

A government-backed savings ISA is available to first-time buyers who are planning to buy a home. First time buyers who save in a Help to Buy ISA will receive a tax free bonus payment from government equal to 25% of their savings, meaning savers will receive a government bonus of £50 for every £200 saved. A minimum of £1,600 must have been saved in the account to trigger the bonus, with the maximum government bonus payable per account being £3,000. A couple applying to buy a home could end up with a bonus payment of £6,000 if each managed to save the maximum £12,000 in individual ISAs.

This is a very generous scheme, but attracted criticism in 2016. Many first-time buyers had assumed that this money could be used to boost their deposit, and were disappointed to learn that the bonus payments were only payable on completion of a house purchase.

Rent to buy

Co-ownership also offers a rent to own scheme. 

The scheme offers people who cannot currently afford to buy a home a fixed-term tenancy of a newly-built home with an option to purchase the property at the end of the tenancy.  Tenants who decide to purchase the property will receive 20% of the rent they have paid during the term back as a rebate.

There are some upfront costs with this scheme, as applicants will have to make a down-payment of £2,500. This money is returned at the end of the tenancy along with the rent rebate, and provides a healthy boost to any deposit necessary to purchase a home.  The property can be purchased with help from co-ownership and, should the tenant be unable to afford to buy this property, the bonus can be ported to another property the tenant can afford to purchase.

Right to buy

Secure social tenants become entitled to purchase their home at a discount after 5 years. While this scheme is a low-cost way into homeownership, it is not always the best option for the tenant and it is vital that anyone considering this option get comprehensive advice on the advantages and disadvantages of changing from a secure, lifetime tenant to a homeowner.

The right to buy scheme has led to a decrease in social housing stock, as it has been difficult to build sufficient numbers of new properties to replace those sold by the scheme.  The Department for Communities has proposed, in a December 2016 consultation, to repeal or amend Article 3(a) of the Housing (NI) Order 1983. The effect of this change would be to remove the right to buy from housing association tenants or to allow housing associations to opt out of this scheme. 

Tagged In

Practical tips, Affordability

This article was written on 21 April 2017. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.