WE’VE all seen them. I’m sure many of you know of vacant derelict or vacant buildings in the middle of towns and villages in Cork - creating an eyesore on the main street like a missing tooth in a smile.
However, those eyesores can be great opportunities.
That’s why I have just launched a new fund for people in Cork who wish to refurbish an old building and create a new home within their community.
The Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Fund is a key part of the Government’s Housing for All Policy to support home ownership and aims to tackle vacancy and breathe new life into our towns and villages.
The fund will support those who wish to turn a formerly vacant property into their principal private residence and become part of the community in an area.
I appreciate that the reasons for vacancy are varied and can often be complex. Due to a lack of investment, some properties are left vacant for long periods. This can be due to the level of investment required to refurbish them to the requisite standard.
If not appropriately addressed in time, these properties can ultimately become derelict.
The challenges associated with vacancy and dereliction are not limited to affecting housing supply. They impact on the ability of towns and villages to function as viable and attractive locations for people to live, work and socialise in.
As I’ve travelled around the country, people have told me that they hate to see these derelict or vacant buildings on their high street. Their existence is even harder to understand when we have an acute need for new homes.
This has been an issue raised everywhere - including here in Cork. That is why I have acted to meet this demand and help people to buy their home.
We have designed a €50m scheme which will be delivered by local authorities and will provide new choices for people to live in towns and villages in Ireland, initially through the provision of a grant to support the refurbishment of vacant properties, with priority given to areas where the level of vacancy or dereliction is high.
A grant of up to €30,000 will be available for the refurbishment of vacant properties for occupation as a principal private residence, including conversion of a property which has not been used as a home before now.
Where a property is in even worse shape - is actually derelict - a maximum top up grant of €20,000 will be available. So in these cases, I am making a total grant available for derelict property of up to €50,000.
So what properties will be considered for inclusion? Basically. Eligible properties must be vacant for two years or more and built before 1993.
I would also add that a range of individuals or households will be eligible to avail of the scheme, and I am particularly prioritising applications from first times buyers or those making a fresh start, as well as people with particular needs including disabled and older people.
The scheme is exclusively available to individuals or households for which the property will be their principal private residence. It is not available to or developers or those who wish to speculate on the property.
It is expected that the applicant would normally live in the qualifying residential property for a period of at least five years from the date of payment of the subsidy. If, at any time, they sell the property within ten years, they must reimburse the State an element of the full value of the subsidy.
So, people who benefit from this scheme will be living in the restored building and will, in turn, be a benefit to the local town or village.
I want to revitalise communities in Cork as well as refurbish buildings.
There is great potential in this scheme. We estimate that there are more than 500 towns and villages in Ireland with a population of over 400 people - many of them in Cork.
It is intended that this Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Fund will apply in all such towns, and also to some smaller villages to begin with.
I am also seriously considering extending the fund to include towns within cities at a future date.
This new Fund is a no-brainer. Combined with all of the other initiatives under Housing for All to support home ownership and address vacancy, it will not only support housing supply, but will have a profoundly positive impact from a social and sustainability point of view - utilising existing space, reimagining and regenerating vacant properties and cutting down on the volume of commuters leading to cleaner air and less congested urban areas.
All we need to do now is get on with it.
That is why I would urge any readers in Cork who think they may be interested in availing of this opportunity to get in touch with your local authority and enquire there for further information and the necessary paperwork.