Cash incentives to restore properties in rural areas to lure people to small towns and villages
It is hoped the move will win back rural Fine Gael voters
House buyers are to be offered renovation grants to restore properties in small towns and villages as part of the Government's long-promised plan to revive rural Ireland.
Cash grants for refurbishing old buildings in rural communities are to form a central plank of the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development, which is being brought before the Cabinet today.
The scheme is aimed at luring all house buyers, but specifically older people and first-time buyers, back into rural communities damaged by unemployment during the recession.
Young people buying houses in designated rural towns would be given cash grants to renovate their new homes along with the tax relief available under the first-time buyer scheme.
The renovation grant would also incentivise older people living alone in isolated parts of the country to move into town centres where more services are available. The cash incentive would allow older people to refurbish houses and make them more accessible for their later years.
The Government hopes renovation grants will lure people into small towns and villages where house prices are far lower than major towns and cities.
A senior Government source said the scheme would be introduced on a pilot basis before being rolled out nationwide.
"We want people to convert centre of town buildings into modern properties," the source said. "We also want to attract people living in extremely rural areas back into towns so they will have easy access to amenities and human company."
The scheme is at an early stage of development but there is a commitment in the soon-to-be-published Action Plan for Rural Development to encourage increased residential occupancy.
The action plan was developed by Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys (pictured) and Regional Economic Development Minister Michael Ring.
The plan sets out more than 250 actions aimed at winning back rural voters who turned their back on Fine Gael during the General Election.
A memo on the report said the key message is rural Ireland is a "modern, dynamic and integral part of our identity and economy".
The action plan has five pillars aimed at "unlocking the potential" of rural communities:
- Supporting sustainable communities
- Supporting enterprise and employment
- Fostering culture and creativity
- Maximising potential for tourism and recreation
- Improving infrastructure and connectivity
Ms Humphreys' proposal commits to creating 135,000 jobs in rural Ireland within the next three years and increasing foreign direct investment in those areas by 40pc in the same period. There is also a commitment to increase the number of tourists visiting rural parts by 12pc.
More than €50m will be invested in sports, recreation and cultural facilities, according to the action plan.
The minister also promises to improve rural job opportunities by increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
There are also commitments to improve local GP services and protect rural schools.
Making communities feel safer and improving social cohesion, especially for older people living alone, are central to the plan.