I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 110 together.
Housing for All recognises the challenges in facilitating owner-occupation in towns, where viable sites available for building of new homes are in short supply. There is significant potential for local authorities to support home ownership in these areas by making available serviced sites at a reduced cost or providing support towards the refurbishment of vacant properties where the level of vacancy or dereliction is high. A pathfinder programme will be initiated as part of a new Croí Cónaithe towns fund to facilitate the making available of some 2,000 sites for homes by 2025. My Department is currently working with the Housing Agency to develop an operational basis for this new fund.
Additionally, a town centre first interdepartmental group was established by my Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development in November 2020 to consider the regeneration of towns and villages nationally.
A Town Centre First advisory group has also been established, which I chair, to enable the experiences of a broader group of stakeholders to be brought to bear in informing the new policy. As part of this process, various examples and case studies are being considered with a view to aligning best practice within the national context.
The Town Centre First policy, details of which are expected to be finalised in quarter 4 this year, will align the activities of the Croí Cónaithe and other related funds in a coherent framework that will supply compact growth in vibrant, liveable cities and towns to deliver improved options for both owner-occupiers and renters at all income levels. A future call for proposals will be open to all counties and local authority areas, including Mayo shortly.
We are concluding our work on the Town Centre First initiative. I have been privileged to chair the advisory group which has a range of stakeholders across a broad area. We have seen other towns like Skibbereen and Westport develop in recent years. Towns like that were not an overnight success. Considerable work, planning and community engagement took place to bring them to where they are. With more strategic thinking along with better structuring and enhancing of current grants, in line with Croí Cónaithe, we can really unlock the potential in many of our towns and cities.
As Deputy Ó Cathasaigh will be aware, I was in Waterford and saw the work being done there through the repair and lease scheme, which is vital in bringing vacant properties back into use. It is incredible that more than half of such properties nationally have been in that county. Great work is being done there and improvements have been made in taking the most vulnerable of our society out of emergency accommodation in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation. Great credit is due to Waterford for achieving that.
I was also privileged to be in Castlebar to see the work going on there, with €8.53 million allocated to the historical core and €2.5 million to the barracks. I know Deputy Dillon was centrally involved in delivering €11 million for Castlebar. The Imperial Hotel dates back to 1790 and the old post office dates back to 1904. Such major historical features will breathe life into Castlebar, supporting citizens and improving the liveability of the town which is so important in such counties.
A considerable amount of exciting work is coming through and hopefully the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, will be able to bring it to Cabinet by November. From then on, we will see a more coherent structured approach to unlocking the potential of all our towns and villages.