The Welsh government is tackling the “blight” of derelict homes in villages, towns and cities across the country by ploughing £50m into an empty homes scheme.
Up to 2,000 long-term empty properties could be brought back into use in a move partly designed to help younger people get back into the places where they grew up.
A grant of up to £25,000 will be available for homeowners or prospective homeowners to remove significant hazards from their properties to make them safe to live in and to improve their energy efficiency.
Once the works have been completed, the applicant must then live in that property as their main and only residence for a minimum of five years – or hand them over to be used by a social tenant.
The Labour-controlled government estimates there are more than 22,000 long-term empty properties in Wales.
The climate change minister, Julie James, said: “These are a wasted housing resource that can become a blight on our communities.”
Schemes have already been run in Anglesey and Gwynedd, in north Wales, places where local people are often driven away by rising prices because of the proliferation of second homes, which puts the viability of communities – and the Welsh language – under pressure. A project to get empty homes back into use in the south Wales valleys has also taken place.
James said: “It’s really important to get the empty homes back into use. They are an obvious waste, given we have real problems with housing across Wales. But they also blight streets and villages.
“We know the whole street, the whole village is really appreciative when a house comes back into use. It allows young people or young couples to go back to the places where they grew up. Often these houses belonged to a relative but it has been beyond their means to bring it back to inhabitable standards and it’s perhaps been impossible to raise finance on the house because mortgage companies won’t do damp-proof course work or whatever it is. These grants are designed to bring a house back into beneficial use.”
In order to qualify for the two-year national empty homes grant scheme, the property must have been registered as empty with the local authority for a minimum of 12 months.
Registered social landlords, local authorities and community housing groups will also be able to access the funding for empty properties they are acquiring to bring back into use as affordable housing.