Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has called on the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, to urgently review the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant as figures show that no refurbishment grants have been drawn down in County Wicklow since the scheme opened in April 2022.
Deputy Brady said: “These new figures show that the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant scheme is deeply flawed. In the 18 months since the scheme opened no refurbishment grants have been drawn down in Wicklow.
“This isn’t good enough. People in Wicklow affected by the housing crisis need to see an ambitious and workable plan that will deliver homes locally.
“Sinn Féin supports the provision of a vacant and derelict property refurbishment grant. However, the current Government scheme was badly designed and continues to be beset with problems.
“When it was launched last year, Minister O’Brien had not engaged with mortgage lenders. As a result, applicants were unable to draw down their mortgages or grant until issues between the pillar banks and Department of Housing were resolved early this year.
“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 Wicklow do not have this cash up front and this is a barrier to accessing the funding.
“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.
“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 Wicklow.
“We would also continue the current grant model via local authorities as set out in our alternative budget document.
“Government must be much more ambitious when it comes to tackling dereliction and vacancy. They must also ensure that when they open schemes that they are properly designed. When problems emerge, the Government must be much more responsive to resolve these issues.
“Instead of tackling the housing crisis, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are making things even worse every day that they remain in office. People in County Wicklow deserve better. It’s time for change.”