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Vacant property grant: ‘Despite lengthy application process, it’s a great scheme’

Doolough diaries: Funding comes through only after an inspection of completed works

As luck would have it, when the sale of Doolough Lodge finally went through, the Government announced its vacant property refurbishment grant the same month.

Funded by the Department of Housing through the Croí Cónaithe fund, after amendments, the scheme now offers grant aid up to €50,000 to renovate a property deemed vacant, and €70,000 for one that is accepted as derelict. Offshore islands can qualify for €84,000 and €60,000 respectively – though this may rise – judging from recent comments from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

It’s not a quick fix though, as recent figures from various local authorities show. From about 6,300 applications, only about 3,000 grants have been approved since the scheme launched in 2022.

Just more than 125 of these grants have been drawn down in the 19 months since the scheme began, though. Drawdowns (payments) of grants are after the fact, and given only when all works are completed and inspected. Because of this you must use registered suppliers as you will have to produce proper VAT invoices – so you will not be able to claim for DIY or cash labour.


Here in Mayo, from a total 369 applications received, 213 have been approved with 10 drawdowns of grant money. This figure represents one of the largest number of applications along with Cork county: 546 (with 348 approvals and one drawdown); Donegal: 541 applications (with 294 approvals and one drawdown); and Kerry with 379 applications (92 approvals and 1 drawdown). Drawdowns in Wexford and Limerick (both city and county) were the highest in the country with 15 and 14 respectively, followed by Mayo at 10. In contrast, Galway city, Monaghan, Tipperary, South Dublin and Cork city have had no grant drawdowns as of yet.

The Government announced in November that “due to the success of this scheme it will double the target for assistance to 4,000 homes by 2025”.

Considering how long it takes to get approval, this might be a rather ambitious target, but it’s all a learning curve – both for the likes of myself and councils themselves.

The good news is, under the current scheme you can make two applications: one to refurbish a home and the second to refurbish a rental unit, so this may see numbers of applications rise. (The first release of the grant applied to home ownership only.)

It’s a long, slow process and tightly managed so as to prevent anyone trying to dupe the system. The whole point of this exercise is to free up homes in an effort to combat our housing crisis, rather than finance those thinking they can quietly flip a property for profit.

A number of rules apply, for example, the property must date prior to 2008 and it must be vacant for two or more years, for which you will need proof. I had sent in the death notice of the gentleman who was the last occupant of the house, along with a letter from Electric Ireland showing the bills for the past year and a half, and a copy of my engineer’s report with photos showing rising damp and dry rot. But that in itself was not enough, and despite my electricity bills being more than €690 in credit – due to energy credits issued by the Government last year – Mayo County Council suggested I ask ESB Networks for a consumption pattern request, which is being processed.

Other documentation required is proof of ownership, a current tax clearance certificate and proof that your local property tax is paid/exempt. You will also need a detailed quotation for works from a VAT-registered builder.

What is covered is clearly itemised on the application form: €21,000 can go towards windows, €7,000 on doors, the same for a kitchen, €14,000 for roof and €10,500 for painting and decorating and so on. But it also can include guidance from professionals such as a grant of 10 per cent of construction costs (or €14,000, whichever is less) for the likes of surveyor/engineer fees.

The rules state you must complete the property within 13 months from approval, and only after inspection when completed does the grant come through.

To discourage anyone who might try to pull the proverbial fast one and flip a house once it’s renovated, there is a condition whereby if you try to sell the property in the first five years, you will have to repay the entire grant. Before payment of the grant, when works have been completed and checked by the local authority, a charge document has to be signed by the applicant. This means the local authority will place a charge on the property, equal to the grant amount paid.

Despite its lengthy application process, it’s a great scheme and has now been extended to cities.

Every local authority housing department has a vacant homes officer who can help with your queries, or you can call the Housing Agency’s vacancy line on 1800 000024 or visit

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables