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Government tensions Scheme to renovate vacant homes delayed as Ministers clash over proposal

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is pushing for State funding to allow house buyers to purchase and renovate second-hand homes

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Minister Darragh O'Brien

Minister Darragh O'Brien

Minister Darragh O'Brien

A new first-time buyers scheme for refurbishing vacant properties is at the centre of Government tensions which have delayed the publication the Coalition’s Housing for All plan.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is pushing for State funding to allow house buyers to purchase and renovate second-hand homes. He wants the existing Help To Buy scheme expanded to allow people buying vacant homes to apply for the tax rebate.

However, he is facing resistance to the proposal from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr O’Brien is determined for the new policy to be part of his Housing for All plan, which was due to be published next week but has now been delayed until August. The document will be a cornerstone policy for the Government and is aimed at addressing the ongoing housing crisis.

Mr O’Brien believes giving house hunters a grant for renovating derelict houses will bring more homes into the housing stock. While the minister is pushing for the Help To Buy scheme to be expanded, he is also considering using funding from the Department of Housing’s budget to create a new fund.

Under the plan, only houses built before 1970 that have been vacant for a number of years would be considered for the funding. Mr O’Brien wants to give first-time buyers as much as €30,000 to renovate old houses. He also proposed the scheme could be run on a pilot basis, starting with 1,000 vacant houses.

The Department of Housing has carried out research which suggests a scheme for renovating old houses would be popular among people hoping to buy their first home.

Yesterday, Mr O’Brien denied there is a major row in Government over his yet-to-be-seen housing plan. He insisted funding for his plan had been agreed with Mr Donohoe but said the last 5pc of the plan still needed to be negotiated.

“To be fair, no one is delaying the plan. It is an important plan. For the sake of a few weeks, it’s important that we get it done right,” Mr O’Brien said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the plan needed “fine tuning” and was not being delayed due to divisions in Government.

“This has to be a template that sustains us for 10 years,” Mr Martin said.

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“We need to build more houses – it is very simple from my perspective. It involves getting through a lot of bureaucracy at times. We need to cut through that.”

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