No takers for vacant home refurbishment grant scheme in Galway City
From this week's Galway City Tribune
Author: Enda Cunningham
~ 3 minutes read
From this week's Galway City Tribune
Not one vacant home refurbishment grant has been drawn down in Galway City since the scheme was launched in 2022.
While 30 applications have been approved in the city area, none have been actually drawn down, leading to calls from Galway West Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell to review the scheme.
“The scheme has also been heavily criticised by applicants as the grant is paid in arrears, meaning that applicants have to front-up the money and claim the grant after the works have been completed and paid for.
“In many cases, applicants in Galway do not have this cash up front and this is a barrier to accessing the funding,” she said.
The Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant offers a payment of up to €50,000 to people who want to turn a formerly vacant property into their principal private residence.
A further top-up grant of up to €20,000 is available where the property has been confirmed to be derelict (structurally unsound and dangerous).
“These new figures show that the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant scheme is deeply flawed. In the 20 months since the scheme opened just one refurbishment grant has been drawn down in county Galway. None have been drawn down in the city.
“This is while 111 applications have been approved in the county and 30 applications have been approved in the city.
“This isn’t good enough. People in Galway affected by the housing crisis need to see an ambitious and workable plan that will deliver homes locally,” said Deputy Farrell.
She said that while she supports a grant system for refurbishments, the current scheme “was badly designed and continues to be beset with problems”.
“The scheme was launched by the Minister in 2022 without having engaged with mortgage lenders, which pushed pay-outs back until 2023.
“The scheme is also chronically underfunded at just €30 million for 2023, and a similar amount for 2024, resulting in an annual target of just over 200 homes to be brought back into use each year,” she said.
Deputy Farrell said her party has been highlighting the issues with the scheme “for months”, but the Government has not acted.
“Sinn Féin has put forward a much more ambitious proposal for bringing vacant and derelict properties back into use. Through increased capital funding to Local Authorities, we want to see up to 4000 vacant and derelict properties bought and refurbished by Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies for social, affordable rental and affordable purchase housing. This would make a real difference for people affected by the housing crisis here in Galway. We would also continue the current grant model via local authorities,” she said.
To qualify for the existing scheme, properties must be vacant for two years and have been built before 2008 (previously, this was 1993) – proof of vacancy must be provided, for example through disconnections of services.
If the property is subsequently sold within five years, 100% of the grant must be repaid; or 75% repaid if it is sold five to ten years after the refurbishment.
If sold more than ten years after the refurbishment, there is no Government ‘clawback’.
Successful applicants can also separately apply for SEAI Better Energy Home Scheme grants – works covered by that scheme cannot be included in the €50,000 or €20,000 top-up under the vacant property refurbishment scheme.
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