Gwynedd Council has adapted one of its housing schemes to put more vacant properties back in use and into the hands of local residents.

At the National Eisteddfod, the council announced properties previously used as second homes will now be eligible for a first-time buyer’s grant to renovate empty houses, expanding the options available to help local people take the first step on the property ladder. The wider scheme to offer grants to renovate empty houses has been available in its current form since 2021 and this change comes in response to an increase in the number of applicants who cannot meet the criteria to receive the grant.

Owners of former second homes were previously ineligible for the grant, despite the buildings previously being vacant. To address this shortcoming, the council has decided to extend the scheme’s criteria to include empty houses that were previously second homes, that is properties that were eligible to pay the Council Tax Premium.

So far around 70 first time buyers from Gwynedd have been supported to live locally thanks to the First Time Buyer Grants Scheme to Renovate Empty Houses. £4m has been set aside for the scheme up to 2026/27, and 38 grants worth around £500,000 have already been awarded, with 25 more in the works.

Cllr Craig ab Iago, Cabinet Member for Housing and Property said: “While many people in Gwynedd can’t buy their first home, hundreds of houses in Gwynedd are in the hands of owners who already have another home. Very often second homes are empty for long periods of the year, and many are in poor condition. Furthermore, 65.5 per cent of Gwynedd’s population has been priced out of the housing market, and the number is as high as 96 per cent in areas with many holiday homes.

“Adapting the grant eligibility to include former second homes makes perfect sense and is another way we can assist the residents of Gwynedd in taking the first step to buying a home locally.

“It is important to note that we are not talking about the usual stereotype of a holiday home worth millions here, but rather the terraced houses and cottages, which have been abandoned and forgotten and have fallen into disrepair over time.

“I would encourage anyone who owns a house that used to be an empty second home until they bought it, to look at the Council’s website for more details, or contact the Council’s Empty Home Grants team for a chat.

Sion Taylor, the first recipient of the updated grant said: “The house I’ve bought used to be the home of a friend of mine and I remember playing here when I was younger. This house was sold some 15 years ago and became a holiday home. It was on sites such as Airbnb, which is a shame, because so many young, local people want to stay here and want a house.

“The grant means so much to me. I applied for it back when I bought the house and was turned down. I was pleased when the council got back in touch to say that the terms had changed.

“It will be a huge help for me to renovate this house and move in faster. Otherwise, it would’ve taken me years to do myself.

“If you are in the same situation as me, I would recommend applying for the grant, it’s worth having. Get in touch with the council to see what they can do for you.’’