Revised mica redress scheme ready for Cabinet approval ‘within two weeks’

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said a revised version of the scheme would be available soon
Revised mica redress scheme ready for Cabinet approval ‘within two weeks’

Vivienne Clarke

A revised mica redress scheme will come to Cabinet in the next two weeks, with the State having a moral obligation to act, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has said.

Campaigners want an improved scheme to help families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by mica, a mineral that can absorb water, due to building blocks cracking and crumbling.

The Government has faced criticism for only offering 90 per cent redress under the current scheme, leaving property owners with significant bills to repair or rebuild homes.

Campaigners have blamed a lack of building regulations and oversight of materials.

An estimated 5,000 homes in Co Donegal are affected by defective bricks, with thousands more understood to be in counties Sligo, Clare and Limerick.

A report found that the cost of a full compensation scheme could reach €3.2 billion.

Mr O'Brien said he told redress campaigners that a revised version of the scheme would not be ready before last week's protest outside the Dáil, but said one would be available soon.

He told RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne programme that he had inherited the current scheme.

“I committed last July that we would work to improve this scheme and enhance it greatly,” he said. “We've made progress in very significant areas around planning exemptions, upfront costs, rent, storage, all of those elements.”

He added: “I committed to improving it... and that's what I've explained as well to the group that I'll have to bring those proposals to Cabinet, which I hope to do within the next two weeks.”

Leasing social homes

Mr O’Brien also confirmed that he is a critic of leasing social homes from private developers.

He was responding to a Business Post report that financier Dermot Desmond had contacted him to recommend phasing out leasing social homes from investment funds and developers.

The Minister said Mr Desmond had written to him months ago and they had since spoken about the matter.

“I am a critic of wholesale long-term leasing. I want to see new homes being built that the State owns. We are phasing out long-term leasing,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said that the meeting with Mr Desmond consisted of the financier “putting forward his view”, and he was in agreement with him that leasing was not good value for money.

However, there were a number of existing schemes such as mortgage to rent, which lets people switch from owning their home to renting it as a social housing tenant, and the lease and repair scheme, both of which required leasing, but he still felt that building new homes was the better solution.

“I didn’t need Desmond to explain that to me. I’m on the record, from when I was in Opposition, as being a critic of leasing.”

Mr O’Brien said the Taoiseach had also been a critic of leasing since he was in Opposition.

The Housing For All plan was to deliver social and affordable housing for all, he said. More social housing was going to be built. The projections for the next year were very positive, he said.

“I’m focused on doing my job delivering thousands of homes, then people can decide.”

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