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.”

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Update 23/01/2017: Minister Humphreys on RTE Radio1 Today with Sean O’Rourke : The pilot scheme could be in the order of 20,000€ grant in aid although the amount has not been decided. The pilot is being rolled out in the third quarter of this year to gauge level of interest. She confirmed it would not to be a tax rebate, aim is to get young people to move to rural towns and villages – not clear if the scheme will be exclusive to first time buyers.

Update 14/06/2017:  Michael Ring was appointed as the Minister for Rural & Community Development, the new department responsible for the development of the grant.

Update 09/10/2017: The Department of Rural & Community Development told Selfbuild the pilot scheme will provide incentives to renovate disused properties and bring them into residential use. However, at the moment this will only apply to homes in rural towns and village centres.