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03 Oct 2022

Government 'killing rural areas' as derelict houses ineligible for grant say Laois councillors

Government 'killing rural areas' as derelict houses ineligible for grant say Laois councillors

A derelict cottage

A widely welcomed new Government grant towards renovating derelict houses and businesses into homes, has one major flaw, highlighted by a Laois councillor.

The Croí Cónaithe (heart of the home) grant announced last May gives €30,000 to €50,000 in grants to people saving old buildings in towns.

However the buildings must be in areas with a population of over 400 people, eliminating rural areas from support.

Cllr PJ Kelly has gained the backing of Laois County Council to ask Minister Peter Burke, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, to extend the scheme.

"It is a fantastic initiative but it should be extended to the countryside. Owners could be in a position to bring them back to life. It would be a huge benefit, small villages would benefit, maybe injecting some populations back.

"Some might need only very small investment to make them habitable again. Some if not all of the investment could be recouped if the dwellings were sold or rented out," Cllr Kelly said.

His motion was seconded by Cllr Ollie Clooney.

"They forgot the countryside, it's discrimination really. This could keep a hurling club going, a local pub and shop. We don't want to see them in the sad state there are, I hope this can be resolved," he said.

Cllr Ben Brennan agrees and accused the Government of "killing rural areas".

"I don't think Minister Burke got it very wrong as he is trying to bring everyone into towns, killing rural areas. Let him know how dissatisfied we are in Laois," he said.

The grant is not enough though, said Cllr Aisling Moran.

"€30,000 wouldn't put in a heating system. A lot of these buildings are in dire straits. If we are serious about it, they need more," she said.

Cllr Conor Bergin backed the motion also.

"There is an opportunity to expand it. If you build a new house in the countryside you can get grants but if you buy an old one you can't. We're trying to encourage people to use existing dwellings," he said.

Another councillor suggests that Laois County Council set up a one-stop-shop a day a week to tell people what grants can be got for housing. Cllr Barry Walsh said "a lot of people aren't fully aware" of the help that is there.

Cllr James Kelly replied that he had asked for a booklet to be provided by Laois County Council.  Director of Services Donal Brennan said that this booklet is "being worked on".

The Croí Cónaite (Towns) Fund has a budget of €50 million.  Properties considered for inclusion must be vacant for two years or more and built before 1993, to be lived in by the owner. They must be in a town or village or be within walking distance by footpath.

Priority is given to first time buyers, people with a disability or older people, and those fulfilling the Fresh Start principal, ie who no longer own their family home after a separation or divorce. If the house is sold within five years the full grant must be repaid.

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