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153.—(1) The Department may make advances to recognised lending institutions enabling them to provide assistance under this Part to first-time purchasers of house property in Northern Ireland, where it is property in which the purchaser intends to make his home.
(2) The assistance is to be available where finance for the purchase of the property (and improvements, if any) is obtained by means of a secured loan from the lending institution and the purchase price[F1 does not exceed] such price limits as the Department may prescribe by order which shall be subject to negative resolution.
(3) Assistance under this Part is to be dependent upon the purchaser satisfying conditions with respect to his own savings; and the first condition is that he shall—
(a)have been saving with a recognised savings institution for at least 2 years preceding the date of his application for the assistance; and
(b)throughout the 12 months preceding that date, have had at least £300 of such savings;
and the second condition is that he shall by that date have accumulated at least £600 of such savings; but the Department may allow for the conditions to be relaxed or modified in particular classes of cases.
(4) Assistance under this Part may be given as follows—
(a)the secured loan may be financed by the Department to the extent of £600 (that amount being normally additional to that which the institution would otherwise have lent, but not so that the total loan can exceed the loan value of the property);
(b)£600 of the total loan may be made free of interest, and of any obligation to repay principal, for up to 5 years from the date of purchase; and
(c)the institution may provide the purchaser with a bonus on his savings (which bonus shall be tax-exempt), up to a maximum of £110, payable towards the purchase or expenses arising in connection with it.
(5) The purchaser may qualify for assistance under paragraph (4)( a) and ( b) by satisfying both the conditions of paragraph (3), and qualify for bonus under paragraph (4)( c) by satisfying only the first of those conditions but he does not in any case qualify unless the amount of the secured loan is to be at least £1,600 and not less than 25 per cent of the purchase price of the property.
(6) The Department may, with the consent of the Department of Finance, by order which shall be made subject to negative resolution—
(a)alter any of the money sums specified in paragraphs (3), (4) and (5) and the percentage figure specified in paragraph (5);
(b)substitute any longer or shorter period for either or both of the periods mentioned in paragraph (3);
(c)alter the second condition of paragraph (3) so that purchasers may also satisfy it with lesser amounts of savings, and enable assistance under paragraph (4)( a) and ( b) then to be given according to reduced scales specified in the order.
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