The Government has agreed to finance a €2.2 billion scheme to rebuild and remediate an estimated 7,500 homes which have been structurally damaged by mica.
The Cabinet agreed to a scheme where 100 per cent redress will be available to affected homes up to a limit of €420,000 per home.
Crucially, the per-square-foot allowable cost has also been increased upwards in the past 24 hours from €138 top €145 for the first 1,000 square feet, with a commitment from the Government that the scheme will take inflation into account, and the per-foot cost will be reviewed every year.
That issue in particular had proved to be contentious with campaign groups saying the €138 per square foot figure was inadequate in the light of sharp inflation in the construction industry over the past year.
It is estimated that 7,500 homes in Donegal and Mayo have been damaged by the presence of mica in blocks used for their construction. However, there are households in other counties - including Clare and Tipperary - who have also been affected, but not all of whom have come forward yet.
At a press conference following the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien outlined details of the scheme. He said the overall cost of the scheme had been almost tripled from over €800,000 to €2.2 billion with the maximum allowable amount increased from €247,000 to €420,000.
He also said that homeowners who had to move out of their homes during renovation would be entitled to a maximum of €15,000 to pay for alternative accommodation as well as €5,000 for storage.
He said that a new independent appeals process will be introduced and that second homes or rented homes would be eligible once they were registered with the Rent Tenancy Board.
He said that primary legislation would be required to introduce the scheme and that a review would also be taken by a senior counsel into the role of industry and regulation in contributing to the crisis. A review will also take place into latent defects insurance as well as a process to ensure that concrete blocks standards were of the highest level.
“Our commitment is to establish a building standards regulatory authority on a statutory basis,” added Mr O’Brien.
The Minister said this scheme would ensure that homeowners affected by mica would have parity with homeowners whose homes were damaged by Pyrite.
“This issue has been raised regularly with me in relation to the east coast and the west coast,” he said.
“This newly enhanced scheme ensures absolute parity of treatment for the north west coast and east coast and in some instances goes further.
“Those impacted can rebuild their homes and more importantly they can rebuild their lives that have been so badly impacted,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said that 7,500 homes were affected, 1,000 of which were social homes. He said it had taken nine years to remediate 2,600 homes affected by Pyrite.
“The scale of this work should not be underestimated. There is a capacity issue as well,” he said.
The Housing Agency said that once a home has met the damage threshold for entry to the scheme, it will assist homeowners by employing engineers to undertake the testing and assessment of their homes.
This, the agency said, will ensure the most appropriate remediation option is recommended for each home. “The agency’s role should also help to improve the current lead-in time on the approval of grants and ultimately speed up the remediation of affected homes,” it said.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said he welcomed the scheme describing it as a “strong overall scheme” that will satisfy the demands of the campaign groups.
The Donegal TD said the sliding scale of €145 for the first 1,000 square feet, €110 for the next 1,000, and €100 for the remainder was an extrapolation from the average of €138 per square foot.
“Overall this is a very strong scheme, one that can support families to remediate their homes and one which will stand the test of time,” he said.
Mr McConalogue was one of three Government TDs - along with Dara Calleary in Mayo, and Joe McHugh in Donegal - who had supported the demands of campaign groups.
Spokesperson for the mica action group Michael Doherty told RTÉ’s News at One that the scheme “discriminates against bigger houses” due to the €420,000 cap and the per-square-foot allowable cost which drops after the first 1,000 square feet.
“That has a massive implication. We know that the average size house is between 2,300 and 2,400 square feet if you’ve got €145 for the first 1,000 square feet, the biggest part of your house is on a sliding scale, not the smallest part and that’s not something we can accept.
“It reinforces the situation we face time and time again, we get a headline, and then we get the devil in the details which detracts from it somewhat which is extremely unfortunate,” Mr Doherty said.