Many mica homeowners “can now see the light at the end of the tunnel,” a campaigner has said following the publication of an independent surveyors report.
The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) said rebuilding thousands of homes affected by mica will likely cost the Government between €149,688 and €421,470 for each house.
However, homeowners will still be left with planning and engineering fees, as well as having to stump up the cost of damaged home contents such as carpets, curtains, furniture and domestic appliances.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien asked the SCSI to estimate average rebuilding costs for mica-affected homes based on "independent, standalone construction".
Muscovite mica, a mineral, has led to apparent defects in building blocks used in at least 5,000 homes in the northwest, causing cracks to open up in thousands of buildings. The Cabinet last year approved an enhanced scheme to cover repairs or rebuilding for affected homes.
In its report published on Thursday, the SCSI said costs of storage, septic tanks, materials salvage, boundary walls and fences as well as outbuildings, such as garages, will not be included in the Government’s grant scheme.
It drew up a model, based on eight different house types, typical of about 7,500 homes in Donegal and Mayo that are affected by the defective concrete blocks.
The society estimated a two-bedroom terrace estate house (88sq m) would cost €149,688 to rebuild, a three-bedroom semi-detached estate house (98sq m) €165,620 and a four-bed semi-detached estate house (113sq m) €193,456.
A four-bed detached estate house (113sq m) would attract a grant up to €200,688 under the calculations, a four-bed single rural bungalow (180sq m) €317,880 and a four-bed single rural dormer (195sq m) €308,685.
At the higher end of the scale, a four-bed single rural two-storey (210sq m) would cost €339,150 and a five-bed or more single rural two-storey house (270sq m) €421,470.
The Cabinet’s grant scheme includes a €420,000 cap on the level of support on offer, up from €247,500 under a previous version of the scheme.
The Mica Action Group along with Opposition politicians have previously called for the sliding scale to be dropped, claiming homeowners would not get 100 per cent redress. They will also be forced to contribute tens of thousands of euro to rebuilding their houses, they warned.
It is expected Mr O’Brien will likely adopt the measures suggested by the SCSI.
Responding to the SCSI report, which homeowners were briefed on Thursday , Mr O’Brien said he has asked the Defective Concrete Block Scheme expert working group to analyse the report’s findings and make recommendations on how to implement them.
“Today is an important step forward in getting an enhanced scheme up and running,” he said.
“Arising from this I intend to bring the final details of the scheme and the required primary legislation to Cabinet in April.
“I hope that all members of the Oireachtas will facilitate a speedy passage of the Bill to allow the scheme to get started as soon as possible.”
Eileen Doherty, a campaigner for those impacted and whose own house in Carndonagh has to be demolished, said the report vindicated the campaign’s denouncement of the Government’s proposals last November.
“We were very disappointed in the published Government scheme at the time and we took a lot of criticism from observers who said we were never going to he happy,” she said.
“Today, we have been vindicated, with the SCSI report returning the same assessment as ours, showing that the Government was way off in terms of the actual costs - there was a significant disparity.
“So, that is very positive and we feel the SCSI process was very fair and engaged with the homeowners, and hearing our perspective on the true costs to rebuild.”
The report heralds “a step closer to homeowners being able to rebuild” their homes and lives, said Doherty, although she flagged a number of concerns that she urged the expert working group to address.
“We are still taking time to digest the report, and we’ll go through it with a fine-tooth comb in the next day or two, with issues where we need to plug a gap,” she said.
The scheme’s exclusion of costs of rebuilding foundations - if needed - is one area of contention.
“There is an acknowledgement that foundations need to be tested. We need to be sure that where foundations are impacted, we are not building houses on substandard or defective foundations.
“Also, on salvage, the SCSI was not asked to cost for salvageable items, like windows and doors. We need to look at the real viability of salvage, and the cost indications for that, of extraction, storage and refitting.”
Another potential issue is the scheme’s costing on pre-2008 building regulations.
Ms Doherty said many of the affected homes were built since then and mica campaigners would like to see rebuilds carried out under existing regulations.
“But, other than that we are very happy. We are significantly closer to enabling homeowners to rebuild their homes,” she said.
“We are moving closer to a proper scheme, so I think it is a good day for the campaign,and a vindication that what we said in November was true. We just hope now that Minister O’Brien completes the process and implements this in legislation.”
Mica campaigner Paddy Diver said while he hadn’t gone through all the finer details yet, the report at first glance was “not brilliant, but definitely workable”.
“We were never going to get brilliant,” he said.
“But all we wanted was our houses fixed and some people need to be realistic about that. I think the Government made it clear that the scheme will evolve over a long time, and if Minister O’Brien sticks to his word on that, that is all we want.”
Taking aim at “civils servants who weren’t happy about the scheme and putting pressure on the minister”, Mr Diver praised O’Brien for being a “man of his word” in endeavoring to improve the scheme.
“We have a lot of other concerns but I think the scheme is workable,” he said.
“I couldn’t say I’m happy,as I haven’t seen all the detail, but I’m happy at the moment, and hopefully there is no devil in the detail that will make me unhappy.
“A lot of homeowners can now see the light at the end of the tunnel”