Homeowners who want to renovate vacant and derelict properties on offshore islands will be given significantly higher grants than those on the mainland, under new plans due to be unveiled by the Government.
The maximum grant will be 20 per cent higher for vacant island properties, meaning island dwellers can avail of €60,000 compared to €50,000 for vacant mainland properties.
For derelict properties, the grant will be up to €84,000 compared to €70,000 on the mainland. This will come into effect from July 1st and will be applied retrospectively to any existing applications, Minister for Rural Development Heather Humphreys will announce.
The change for grants comes as the Government has finalised a new national islands policy, the first in 27 years. The plan has 80 commitments around housing, health and education, as well as commitments for delivering high-speed broadband.
A key part of the plan agreed by Ms Humphreys and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will see major changes to the vacant property grant scheme, also known as Croí Cónaithe. In addition to the grants, vacant home officers will be hired to identify vacant and derelict properties on the islands in a bid to meet local housing demand.
The plan also includes commitments to provide every island community with remote working facilities to enable people to live and work within the community, as well as €2 million for minor capital works on islands off Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway and Cork.
It is understood that rural planning guidelines will be revised in the coming weeks amid complaints from island communities about difficulties in securing planning permission for housing. Sources say the finer details are still under consideration, but that the aim is to make it easier to build in island areas.
As part of a health initiative, new “ehealth” pods will be rolled out on offshore islands to give residents better access to appointments. It is further understood that the plan commits to better mental health services for island communities.
There will also be a focus on the delivery of high-speed broadband to island-based schools and digital hubs.
Communities have asked for further investment in infrastructure, such as piers and roads, and this demand will be addressed in the plan alongside new waste management arrangements.
Ms Humphreys said the 80 actions would “support and empower our island communities and the people living there”.
“It’s all about improving services in housing, health and education, delivering high-speed broadband, and further developing our outdoor amenities, which will in turn increase tourism,” Ms Humphreys said.
“It’s about ensuring our islands have proper infrastructure in terms of water, roads and piers.
“And it’s about supporting every single island community to develop remote working facilities, ensuring people can live and work in their own community.
“And I’m particularly pleased to have worked with my colleague, the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, to provide additional funding under Croí Cónaithe to support islanders who wish to turn vacant and derelict properties into homes.”
Ms Humphreys said the plan is a 10-year policy to support island communities.