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Mica redress: Package for homeowners capped at €420,000 in €2.2 billion scheme

The scheme will cover an estimated 7,500 homes at a total cost of €2.2 billion.

Mica protest in Dublin last month.
Mica protest in Dublin last month.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Nov 30th 2021, 8:55 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced a support package for families affected by the mica crisis that will see remediation capped at €420,000 per home. 

The package was announced by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien this afternoon. It will cover an estimated 7,500 homes, including 1,000 social homes, at a total cost of €2.2 billion.

Homeowners will be entitled to €145 per square foot on the first 1,000 feet of their property, with the figure dropping to €110 per square foot for the second 1,000 feet  and €100 per foot for the remainder. 

Opposition politicians have criticised this sliding scale, saying it will leave homeowners with significant outstanding costs. 

O’Brien said that homeowners who have to leave their homes during renovation works are entitled to a maximum of €15,000 in rental costs and €5,000 in storage costs. 

O’Brien noted that the figure is €800 million more than the existing scheme. He said the scheme covers all remediation options, including demolition.

The Fianna Fáil minister noted that the government must ensure that the owners of smaller homes affected by mica are not “discriminated against” in terms of the rates of grants they receive per square foot.

“This newly enhanced scheme ensures absolute parity of treatment for the north west coast and east coast and in some instances goes further,” he said.

Those impacted can rebuild their homes and more importantly they can rebuild their lives that have been so badly impacted.

Holiday homes are not included in the scheme, while rental properties are included if they are registered with the Residential Tenancies Board. O’Brien said it is estimated that this applies to “around 900″ properties.

It was also announced that an industry levy will be introduced in 2023, which will deal with the scheme and other home defect issues.

O’Brien said that enhanced mental health supports will be provided to families and homeowners and that a senior counsel will be appointed to review the role of industry to address a number of issues.

Today’s announcement comes almost two months after a government report estimated that the scheme could cost up to €3.2 billion

That report was slammed by campaign groups because it suggested that, while houses that required some external demolition and repair would be entitled to 100% of their costs covered, complete demolition and rebuild would not be 100% covered. 

Campaigners such as the Mica Action Group say that the scheme should cover 100% of the costs incurred by homeowners, including costs such as renting a home while their house was being repaired or rebuilt. 

The crisis arises from the presence of a natural mineral, muscovite mica, in the concrete blocks used to build homes.

The presence of mica absorbs moisture, weakens the concrete and causes cracked and crumbling walls in homes.

In the Dáil this afternoon there was criticism of the government’s plans with Sinn Fein claiming that some homeowners will be left with bills of more than €45,000. 

Pearse Doherty TD criticised a cap of €145 per square foot in the scheme, available only for the first 1,000sq ft, with a sliding scale after that.

He said costs to Donegal County Council under the current scheme have come in at an average of €150 per square foot.

“The average size of a mica-affected house in Donegal is 2,300sq ft. With your sliding scale that means that somebody will have to find €45,500 themselves to build their house,” he told the Dail.

If they are the average one-off house in this state, which comes in at just shy of 2,600sq ft, under the sliding scale that your Cabinet has signed off on, they would have to find €56,000.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the methodology was devised by the SCSI, which found the annual average to be €138 per square foot.

He said there were “economies of scale”, with the methodology chosen so as not to “disadvantage smaller houses, which represent the bulk of the houses covered under this scheme”.

‘Sliding scale provision must go’

Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle said the government’s mica redress scheme “doesn’t go far enough”.

Also speaking during Leaders’ Questions, he said families hit by the defective block scandal “couldn’t afford the last scheme and they can’t afford this scheme”.

He said the homeowners affected were not told about the “sliding scale” by Housing Minister in a briefing about details of the scheme on this morning.

“I have just spoken to members of Mica Action Redress Group and they have confirmed to me that when the minister spoke to them this morning, there was no mention of a split rate or a sliding scale” he said.

“He talked about the price per square foot and that was it.”

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Sinn Féin TDs Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the Government needs to needs to go “back to the position that was articulated to families this morning and then pulled from under them” and remove the sliding scale provision.

“It is clear now that the ‘sliding scale’ provision introduced to the Mica/Pyrite redress scheme by Cabinet today brings those impacted by Mica and Pyrite to well below the market cost to reconstruct their homes,” Mac Lochlainn and Doherty said in a joint statement this evening.

“That means homeowners will need to pay tens thousands of euro from their own pockets. Ordinary workers and families in Donegal and elsewhere on the west coast do not have that kind of money, which is why the previous scheme fell apart.

“The Mica Action Group has made it very clear that the ‘sliding scale’ provision must go.”

- With reporting by Céimin Burke and Press Association

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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