By Cate McCurry and James Ward, PA
The Government has agreed a revised mica redress scheme which will be capped at €420,000 per home.
Homeowners will be able to receive €145 for the first 1,000sq ft, which will reduce to €110 for the second 1,000sq ft, and the remainder will be set at a rate of €100 per square foot.
The Government has committed that the scheme will take inflation into account, and the per-foot rate will be reviewed every year.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the Government agreed to finance the €2.2 billion scheme to rebuild and remediate the thousands of homes which have been damaged by mica.
Defective building blocks containing excessive deposits of the mineral mica 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.
It is estimated that 7,500 homes will benefit from the Government’s revised scheme.
Mr O’Brien said that homeowners who have to move out of their homes during renovation works are entitled to a maximum of €15,000 to pay for accommodation.
There will also be storage costs of up to €5,000.
A new independent appeals process will be put in place.
Second homes or rented home will also be eligible once they have registered with the Residential Tenancy Board, Mr O’Brien said.
The Fianna Fáil Minister 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.
Mr O’Brien also pledged to fast-track the primary legislation through the Oireachtas.
The Bill is set to be brought forward in the first quarter of next year.
“I fully recognise the toll that this has taken on homeowners,” Mr O’Brien added.
In Brussels! This action is to try & protect everyone in Ireland from the consequences of defective materials. Tomorrow they present to the Petitions Committee to state the Irish Govt did not ensure critical EU standards were enforced which resulted in the mica/pyrite crisis. pic.twitter.com/RPhDrkxdVg
— Mica Action Group (@micaactiongroup) November 30, 2021
“I spent a lot of time talking and meeting with them over the last number of months.
“People have really been so badly affected. We will be bringing forward enhanced mental health supports, and they’ll be made available to homeowners in effected counties.”
He added: “People have rightly asked a number of questions in relation to liability, culpability, and how we ensure that this does not happen again.
“A review will be undertaken by a senior counsel into the role of industry and regulations in generating mica/pirate issues and a review of defects insurance will be undertaken.”
He said that an industry levy will be introduced in 2023 to ensure the sector makes a contribution to the scheme, which will amount to €80 million a year.
“Today, through the enhanced scheme, we’re ensuring that they can rebuild their homes,” Mr O’Brien added.
“They can rebuild their lives that have been so badly impacted by the plight of mica and defective block.”
He said the square-foot rates will be linked to the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) rate, and the current rates will be review in February next year.
“We have committed to using recognised methodology that is used by the SCSI,” he added.
“So there’s a first-rate of 145 and that’s just the base rate. There will be a reduction after 1,000sq ft and that is normal.”
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue described the scheme as “really good and really strong”.
The Donegal TD said: “It delivers 100 per cent funding for homeowners and, more importantly, it is based on calculations for this year and also going forward that will be adjusted to reflect real-life building costs as they evolve.
Micheál Martin refuses to assure Mica families that they will not have to pay tens of thousands of Euros out of pocket in the new Redress scheme 🏚️ 👨👩👦@PearseDoherty #LeadersQuestions #MicaRedress pic.twitter.com/bAlnTcUgqh
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) November 30, 2021
“The key thing is the certainty that families can now have, and the support will be in place for them.
“We have seen building inflation, that is something that is captured year-on-year. That will be adjusted year-on-year to reflect the real building costs.
“The phasing for the first 1,000sq ft is €145, the second 1,000 feet at €110, and the remainder at €100 per square foot average.”
However, the scheme has been criticised by opposition parties.
Sinn Féin claimed that homeowners will be left with bills of more than €45,000.
Pearse Doherty 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 Dáil.
“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 Micheál 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”.
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 Tuesday 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.”