Lismore council plan to help home-buyers
By Alex Easton
THERE are only two things keeping Renae Murray from the housing market the cost of getting in and the cost of staying in.
When The Northern Star last caught up with Ms Murray in June, the 22-year-old and her partner were working on a dream of building a home together.
Six months later and the couple are no closer to their dream, with Ms Murray saying rising interest rates and the increasing cost of maintaining a mortgage were scaring her off the housing market.
Even if, on their shop assistant salaries, they could be confident of meeting loan repayments, there was still the daunting job of saving the more than $50,000 needed to cover a 20 per cent deposit on an average $255,000 Lismore home.
However, Lismore City Council might soon have something that can help Ms Murray and her partner with that first step, at least.
The council next week will consider a plan that would help local first-home buyers cover the cost of their deposit up to a maximum of $50,000.
The plan is the result of six months work by council officers, who set out in June to find ways to make housing more accessible to local people.
Back in June, council officers were talking about ideas such as shared equity, in which the council would pay for a percentage of a house and then reap that percentage of the capital growth once the home was sold.
The new proposal lets the council help people get into their first home, potentially without having to spend any money doing it.
Under the plan to go to the council on Tuesday, Lismore City Council would partner with a financial institution that would agree to offer loans up to 100 per cent of the value of a property to first-home buyers living and working in the Lismore local government area.
The loan would be essentially split 80/20 into two loans though paid as one with the council agreeing to cover the cost of the smaller loan if the borrower went under. But the borrower would have to prove they could cover the repayments before they were given the money.
A spokeswoman said the council did not yet have any formal agreements with any financial institutions, but knew there were some that were interested in the idea.
Lismore mayor Merv King said the plan needed 'more research', but he believed the proposal was a good idea and that council staff could make it work.
"It's only a group of people we can help; we're not providing mansions for everyone and we can't help people who can't help themselves," he said. "But we're on the right track ... it's something we can work on."
Without trying to predict how they would vote on the idea on Tuesday, Cr King said he believed it was generally supported by his fellow councillors.
Ms Murray had been enthusiastic about the shared equity idea when The Star spoke to her about it in June, and she said the new proposal looked good too. But covering the deposit as helpful as that was did not solve the couple's concerns about maintaining a mortgage amidst rising interest rates.
"The size of the repayments is really important, because it's what you're going to deal with week-to-week," Ms Murray said. "But I'd probably look into it (the scheme)."
Cr King said Ms Murray, who had worked at Lismore's Jeans House for more than five years, and her partner were precisely the sort of people the council wanted to help: "People who have a job and are fair dinkum ... but haven't got that ability to get the money to make that deposit.
"If we can help a few people like that and get them into a home and keep people here keep good people here then that's great.
"There's a lot of work to be done, a lot of research to be done, but if it can work it will be great."