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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Mica Scandal

Mica homeowners have 'outstanding concerns' about new scheme, committee told

Homeowners impacted by the mica scandal have told politicians that the updated redress scheme will be inaccessible for many because of the up front costs required.

VICTIMS OF THE Mica scandal have told the Oireachtas housing committee this morning that they still have outstanding concerns about the updated redress scheme launched earlier this month. 

The enhanced concrete block remediation scheme entered into law earlier this month and opened to applications at the beginning of this week after significant delays.

Speaking at today’s committee hearing Martina Hegarty, whose home in Mayo was built using defective concrete blocks, outlined the “mental and physical anguish” of living with a defective home. 

She noted that there was “practically no announcement” of the new scheme and said instead of fixing everything as expected it creates “more roadblocks for homeowners”.

“A year after the scheme was rushed through the Dáil with no meaningful amendments from the government, we are told to have patience. We are told the scheme is 100%, yet every single homeowner who has done the calculations is going to be paying in part to rebuild their homes,” Hegarty said.

“A homeowner must sit, wait and watch their cracks widen until they reach a certain level to reach a meaningless damage threshold, that has no interest in science,” she added.

Hegarty highlighted the fact that homeowners availing of the scheme are expected to oversee the rebuilding of their homes themselves and that they are “at the mercy” of builder availability.

“A homeowner is required to project manage the rebuild of their homes.

“Collect endless paperwork, contact the local authorities, deal with an on-line application, source engineers, architects, builders, deal with banks, insurance companies, and worst of all, find a location to rent in the midst of a housing crisis. How?,” Hegarty asked the committee.

Martina Hegary Mica Homeowner Martina Hegarty from the North Mayo Pyrite Group giving evidence at today's housing committee.

She also highlighted the issue of a home’s foundations falling outside of the scheme and drew attention to the lack of retrospective support available for homeowners who have already used their own money to repair or demolish their homes.

“Worst of all, you are left in the constant fear of what lies beneath. Because foundations are a massive issue that is not covered in the scheme,” Hegarty said.

Earlier this month, Sinn Féin also drew attention to the absence of retrospective redress under the scheme. 

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on housing Eoin Ó Broin said: “It does not provide 100% redress. It does not provide retrospective redress. It does not include foundations impacted by pyrrhotite, and IS 495 – the industry standard underpinning the original scheme – remains in place.

“This standard has been undermined by the emerging scientific evidence and has resulted in large number of applications for funding being stalled and it is likely that this will continue in the revised scheme. The damage threshold cannot be used as a barrier to access the scheme.”

‘Scheme inaccessible for many’

Also in attendance at today’s committee hearing was Dr. Martina Cleary from the Clare Pyrite Action Group.

Cleary said she was pleased that after three years of a “very tough campaign” homeowners in County Clare have been included in the government scheme.

However, she said it should not have taken this long and that outstanding concerns about the “logistical and financial feasibility” of the scheme remain.

Martina Cleary Mica Dr Martina Cleary from the Clare Pyrite Action Group speaking at today's committee hearing

“In the three years of reaching this point, our homes have degenerated further and with them, also the health and well-being of those living through this crisis,” Cleary said.

Cleary’s key concern is that the grant is not 100% redress and because of the upfront costs homeowners will have to meet, the scheme will be inaccessible for many.

Cleary said there is “no doubt” the scheme will not cover the actual cost of rebuilding or remediation even for smaller houses.

“Homeowners will be tens of thousands short in meeting true materials and labour costs, for a simple builder’s finish,” she said. 

“In addition to this, the professional fees incurred for progression through the stages of the scheme, will place huge up-front financial burdens on homeowners. Many will not have the resources, nor access to loans to cover these.

“It falls far short in every aspect in restoring people’s homes,” Cleary added.

Defective building blocks containing excessive deposits of the minerals mica and pyrite have seen thousands of properties start to crumble across the country.

An estimated 5,000 homes in Co Donegal are affected, with thousands more understood to have faulty blocks in counties Sligo, Clare and Limerick.

As of June last year, the estimated cost of the scheme stood at €2.7 billion.

When the scheme was signed off on, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the total grant amount per home would be capped at €420,000.

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