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British developers show the way to Irish rivals on addressing defective homes

UK authorities are developing a markedly more effective response to the issue

In Ireland, homeowners in many Celtic Tiger-era homes have been forced to find sums sometimes running into tens of thousands of euro to put right issues of shoddy construction. File photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

A homebuilder has earmarked €85 million to address fire safety concerns at 26 high-rise buildings it constructed. The builder no longer owns the buildings affected but says it will provide support where owners fail to accept their legal responsibilities.

No, it’s not in Ireland, where homeowners in many Celtic Tiger-era homes (and the State in some instances) have been forced to find sums sometimes running into tens of thousands of euro to put right issues of shoddy construction.

The builder in question is Persimmon, one of Britain’s biggest homebuilders. Rival Barratt Developments made a similar, if smaller, commitment last week. Both relate to cladding issues that have come to the fore following the fatal fire at London’s Grenfell Tower, in which Irish insulation group Kingspan has found itself embroiled.

And British housing minister Robert Jenrick, also on Wednesday, announced an extra €4 billion in funding – on top of an existing €1.8 billion – towards the cost of stripping dangerous cladding from apartment blocks in England. Part of the cost will be covered by a new tax on developers from next year to ensure homebuilders make what the housing minister said was “a fair contribution” to solving the problem. Builders will pay €2 billion under the tax over the next decade, he said.

In Ireland, homeowners told an Oireachtas committee last December that fixing the 100,000-plus defective homes here could cost €1 billion. The builders in question in many cases are still active, but no substantial support is being offered to the homeowners.

It’s become a national pastime, particularly since the Brexit vote, to see our British neighbours as somehow inept and self-destructive. But as the Covid-19 vaccination rollout and now this issue show, they can be markedly more decisive and effective than authorities here. All too often, we just hear why things are not possible – including the Government forcing developers to stand over the quality of what they build.

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