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First-time buyer support scheme wins Welsh housing award

An innovative grant scheme to help first-time buyers modernise empty homes in Gwynedd and Anglesey has won a prestigious housing award.

The First Time Buyers Empty Homes Grant scheme won the Chartered Institute of Housing’s 2021 award for Supporting Future Generations in Wales.

The CIH Cymru award was recently presented to the Empty Homes Teams of the neighbouring local authorities.

Gwynedd and Anglesey have been working together to deliver the £2.5 million scheme since 2018. They have helped 155 first-time buyers by utilising funding from the Second Homes Council Tax Premium and Welsh Government regeneration funds.

Several of Wales’ coastal and rural communities have seen record house price increases, with many properties purchased as second homes and/or holiday lets, or by people who have decided to relocate from more urban parts of the UK to retire or work from home.

Councillor Craig ab Iago, Gwynedd Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Property said:

“One of our main objectives is to ensure that the people of Gwynedd have access to a suitable home which is of a high standard, affordable and improves their quality of life and the Empty Homes Teams provide a crucial role in enabling this for many of our residents.

“I’d like to thank the empty homes teams from both authorities who helped to drive and deliver the scheme at a time when we are facing a housing crisis. We would also like to thank our respective Council Cabinets for supporting this innovative scheme enabling us to utilise funds from the Second Homes Council Tax premium in such a positive and beneficial manner.”

Anglesey’s Housing portfolio holder for Housing, Councillor Alun Mummery, added:

“Following the dramatic house price increases seen in 2020 in Ynys Mon and Gwynedd, the need to support first-time-buyers has never been greater. Recognising the combined need to support first-time-buyers and bring long-term empty houses back into use as first homes, the two local authorities have established and delivered an innovative support scheme to assist local first-time-buyers to meet the costs of refurbishing newly purchased empty homes for use as their new home.”

Both counties have established slightly different schemes, but have been working in partnership with each other and Welsh Government to secure funding, add value, monitor progress, capture outputs, address common issues and share good practice.

The scheme has also been funded by the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Programme. News of the award was welcomed by the Welsh Government.

The Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, who has responsibility for housing, Julie James said, “Our Transforming Towns Programme has supported the delivery of a range of interventions to bring properties back into use to include targeted assistance to first time buyers providing much needed homes for local communities.

“I’m so pleased that the Chartered Institute of Housing has recognised the contribution of organisations and key individuals and celebrated this best practice for the housing sector across Wales. Tackling the challenges and opportunities associated with empty properties is a key policy for Welsh Government and it’s great to see work like this being undertaken across North West Wales.”