Owners return to first homes repaired under pyrite scheme

Residents in Meath and Dublin had been forced to move out due to to structural issues

Cracks in the outer wall of a house affected by pyrite. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Cracks in the outer wall of a house affected by pyrite. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The keys have been handed over to the owners of some of the first houses repaired under the Government’s €10 million pyrite resolution scheme.

Residents of two housing estates in Rush, north Dublin and Ashbourne, Co Meath had waited up to six years to have the serious structural problems fixed and were forced to move out of their homes for months to allow major work take place.

The scheme was established after a 2012 report on the emergence of the mineral pyrite in some homes constructed during the building boom. The presence of the mineral in the foundations in some cases caused serious cracks in walls and floors due to so-called “pyritic heave”.

Some 799 applications have been received to date for inclusion in the pyrite remediation scheme. Of those, 520 have been accepted for inclusion in it and preparatory work, tendering or remediation itself is underway or imminent, the Department of the Environment said.

A pilot project of five homes was completed last year. Contracts for remediation have been signed for a further 148 houses and 16 of those have been completed. Three more projects, with a total of 53 homes, will commence in the coming weeks.

It is estimated the cost of repairing each affected home is between €50,000 and €60,000.

‘Trauma’

Minister of State for the Environment Paudie Coffey, who visited the residents at the estates in Ashbourne and Rush on Friday as their keys were returned, said he had seen the scale of the disruption caused to those affected by the pyrite problem.

“It brought it home to me the trauma that families have experienced over many years. Literally their whole houses had to be dug out, all the floors had to be taken out and the whole lot reinstated.”

He acknowledged the work of the late Fine Gael junior minister Shane McEntee for “the way he brought this to the forefront within government”.

“These people were left in the lurch in terms of bad building, in terms of being left to their own devices with sub-standard homes.”

It had only been because of politicians such as Mr McEntee and his daughter Helen, who was also present, that the issue had been dealt with at the highest level, he said.

Mr Coffey acknowledged the Government had been criticised for slow progress on the remedation scheme, but it had only been established a year ago last February.

“We had to put the Pyrite Resolution Board in place, the Housing Agency and all the technical staff that goes with it to ensure that we have an efficient model that works well.”

Mr Coffey said he expected to see a few hundred houses fully remediated and fully certified by the end of the year.

The Government had set aside a budget of €10 million this year and he would seek during negotiations on next year’s estimates to have funds ringfenced to remediate as many houses as possible.

Asked if he was now happy that building work was of a sufficiently high standard to ensure such issues did not occur again, Mr Coffey said there was no doubt there had been legacy issues a result of the “boom and bust cycle”.

Stringent new building regulations introduced by the Government would ensure accountability now in terms of who was signing off on building work, he said.

“Builders, suppliers, up to the assigned certifier will ensure that there will be quality building and if there are any breaches of that we will have people held accountable. We didn’t have that in the past, unfortunately. And unfortunately it was at the time of the biggest building cycle that the country has ever seen.”

Case study

Jenny Doyle, who was handed back the keys to her house at Ashewood in Ashbourne, Co Meath on Friday, said she and her husband had been three years in the house when they discovered a serious crack behind the front door.

They approached the building insurance scheme Homebond, which “eventually” did a drill test. “It took us six months to get it writing that it was pyrite. That was six years ago, so we are six years fighting to have our house fixed,” she said.

“Homebond offered us €1,700 in full and final settlement for fixing our house.”

Ms Doyle first contacted local TD, the late Shane McEntee, whom she praised for his work. She subsequently joined the Pyrite Action Group with Sandra and Peter Lewis “and we discovered that pyrite was a much bigger problem than just a few houses in Ireland”.

“It was so stressful,” she said.

Ms Doyle became stuck in an upstairs bedroom due to a door jamming at one point and had to phone her husband to ask him to come home to let her out.

“At the time, we bought our house a starter home. When we realised there was a problem, we put off having a family in the house. We couldn’t sell it, so we just had to truck on through and try to get our house fixed.

“Now six years on we have a three-year-old son who knows exactly what pyrite is. He is so happy to have his fixed house, because for the last three years he has called it ‘our broken house’.”