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'Not what we signed off on': Mica campaigners unhappy with redress report

The report says the total cost of the remediation scheme could be €3.2 billion.

A defective block at today's Leinster House protest.
A defective block at today's Leinster House protest.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 1st 2021, 4:43 PM

A GOVERNMENT REPORT into homes affected by defective mica blocs has found that a remediation scheme for impacted property owners could cost up to €3.2 billion.

The report says that the coverall cost is currently estimated at €1.4 billion but that could rise to €3.2 billion when final submissions and changes to the scheme are included. 

By comparison, the report says that the pyrite remediation scheme is likely to be a maximum of €400 million. 

A previous scheme to assist homeowners deal with crumbling blocks in their homes was acknowledged by the government as being insufficient and a working group was established to put forward options to government for “an enhanced scheme”. 

The working group’s report therefore puts forward a number of potential improvements “for consideration” by the government. 

The revised scheme suggested would cover the costs to affected homeowners of fixing their damaged houses. However, those who have to completely demolish and rebuild their homes (option 1) would not necessarily  receive a 100% grant.

The cap for complete demolition and rebuild was previously put at €275,000 but the report states that this should be increased. 

Other remedial works, including the demolition of rebuilding of externals walls would receive a grant of 100%, subject to expenditure caps. 

The report states that 56% of homes under the current scheme are availing of complete demolition (option 1) and that this could become “the norm”. 

Expenditure caps were a feature of the previous scheme and the report being sent to government says that these caps should increase but it does not provide a figure for maximum expenditure. 

Homeowners had also raised the issue of rental costs while their homes were being rebuilt, with the report stating that this is agreement that this is appropriate but that the quantum is yet to be agreed. 

Under the previous scheme, homeowners were required to pay €5,000 for a mica test in order to apply, a cost that campaigners said was a barrier to some struggling families. 

The new proposals say that a revised application process would now mean that a building condition assessment would be required, likely costing €500-750. 

The report was commissioned by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, and states that the potential number of private homes in Donegal affected could be as high as 4,800, with a further 1,000 social housing units potentially impacted.

In Mayo, the figures are up to 1,000 private homes and 150 social housing units. 

Homeowners

The report was prepared by a working group which includes department officials, affected homeowners and local authority representatives. 

One of the members of the working group, Donegal homeowner Eileen Doherty, has said that the report does not reflect the work done by their representatives. 

“This does not reflect the significant body of work that the homeowner representatives contributed to the working group. This is not a paper that we’ve signed off on. This is the officials paper and is lacking in detail. It’s lacking in any depth, it’s very vague,” she told RTÉ’s News at One today. 

Doherty added that it was unclear exactly what was being proposed but that as it seemed clear that complete redress for all affected homeowners was not part of it it is not something campaigners could support. 

From what we can decipher from this very vague document, it would seem that they aren’t going to recommend 100%, so we absolutely would not be supporting that recommendation. Again, this does not reflect the views of the homeowners on the working group. We would say that we must see 100% delivered for all remediation options.
Speaking to reporters in Rosslare this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he had spoken to the Housing Minister today but that today’s report is not the end of the matter. 
“He said that report is made up of the submissions made by the working groups and a record of meetings. It’s not the final report that will come to us and certainly to the three party leaders and to Cabinet,” Martin said.
We will meet with the minister and his officials in relation to this. But suffice to say, significant progress has been made in terms of the original scheme. The original scheme was not fit for purpose and significant progress was made on a number of fronts that would have been identified by homeowners as critically problematic.
He added: “We have to look at this in the round now and we will make a decision in the next number of weeks.”
O’Brien has said that his department was “doing a lot of work” to see if the State has any legal recourse to recoup some of the money spent on the scheme.

Asked by reporters if there was a plan in place to prevent this happening again, An Taoiseach said: “There is a regulatory framework there and there are regulations here. That’s a very important issue, which the minister also intends to pursue.”

It is not satisfactory that defective blocks of this kind would be on the market or would be used so freely in terms of housing building and in terms of other buildings as well. That’s just totally unacceptable. Individuals and people have responsibilities in this regard.

Damage report 

The report found that damage to houses was made worse in some cases by the locations they were built in. 

“In many of the affected dwellings, the problems appear to have been exacerbated by their location in geographic areas of severe exposure and the ingress of moisture into the concrete blocks,” it reads.

“The problems were possibly accelerated by the extreme weather conditions arising in
the winters of 2009 and 2010.” 

The report outlines the initial projection of €150,000 per home and that based on 6,600 homes, the likely overall cost of redress was estimated at just under €1 billion.

“On the basis of actual applications and approvals therefore, the projected cost of remediating homes under the Scheme, as well as remediating social homes, has risen by almost 50% in recent months and is now estimated at €1.4 billion,” it says. 

“Based on the homeowners’ final submission the estimated costs of the changes requested could rise by €1.8bn to €3.2bn.

“This is on the basis of capital works and associated costs only and does not take account of potential costs for items sought such as; compensation for homeowners and inclusion of all non-residential buildings impacted.” 

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O’Brien is expected to send the draft report to coalition leaders before bringing further recommendations to Cabinet.

The government has already given a commitment that they will enhance the existing redress scheme for residents affected by defective Mica blocks in Mayo and Donegal.

O’Brien has acknowledged that the current scheme is not working as originally intended. 

In a statement, the Department of Housing said the Minister understands the stress and the hardship which affected homeowners are facing and assured them that enhancements would be made to the current scheme. 

Speaking this morning after details of the scheme were reported, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty TD said that he was “kind of surprised” by the report’s focus on the previous scheme and not new recommendation’s. 

“The big issue obviously is the fact that there’s not 100% redress for homes that have to be demolished. My understanding is there were 80 homes demolished in Donegal over the summer. There are many, many more that are going to have to be demolished, that’s the reality,” he said. 

With reporting by Christina Finn and Niall O’Connor

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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