Independent deputy for Laois/Offaly, Carol Nolan TD

"Major flaws" in derelict property grant scheme

Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has strongly criticised the failure of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, to notify applicants for the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant that there were major operational flaws with the design of the scheme.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after she raised concerns about the Grant during a Dáil debate on housing and homelessness.

“In July 2022 the minister launched, to great fanfare, the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant to support bringing vacant and derelict properties back into use. This was worth €50,000 but that was then topped up by an additional €20,000 where the property is confirmed by the applicant to be derelict or where the property is already on the local authority’s Derelict Sites Register,” Deputy Nolan said.

“The big problem however was that due to a dispute with banks and their unwillingness to provide mortgages according to the terms of the scheme, just one single person was able to draw down the grant despite over a hundred approved applications.”

“The minister now tells me that his Department has been engaging with Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) on behalf of its members since February of this year and that this engagement has resulted in an agreement being reached with the main lending banks (AIB and subsidiaries EBS and Haven, Bank of Ireland, PTSB and Finance Ireland).”

“While I welcome this progress it does not take away from the plain fact that the scheme was essentially inoperable for a full year which in itself highlights the lack of engagement by the department and the minister prior to the schemes launch. If that had taken place then surely the problems could have been flagged and resolved and we would not have a lost a full year waiting with a redundant scheme in place,” Deputy Nolan concluded.