independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Cabinet gives approval for €50m scheme to pay for repair of pyrite-damaged homes

Environment Minister Phil Hogan
Environment Minister Phil Hogan

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has got cabinet approval for a €50m taxpayer-funded scheme to finally pay for repairs to 1,000 pyrite-damaged homes.

The cost will be funded directly by the taxpayer, after a previous plan to impose a levy on insurance and quarry firms was abandoned.

The Government received legal advice that it would be unsafe to go ahead with a levy because many companies could argue that they were not directly responsible for the pyrite-damaged homes.

Mr Hogan got the go ahead for his pyrite bill at today’s cabinet meeting. He intends to pass it into law before the Dail breaks for Christmas.

In a statement, Mr Hogan said he wanted the Pyrite Resolution Bill to pass into law before the Dail went on its Christmas break.

“This will enable the Pyrite Resolution Board to begin taking applications as quickly as possible and more importantly that remediation works will commence as early as possible in the New Year,” he said.

Mr Hogan said he was keenly aware of the long wait many affected homeowners had to endure until now.

“It has not been an easy time for those people and I understand how stressful such situations can be but today’s Government Decision represents another important milestone on the road to providing solutions for homeowners and to put an end to the long wait,” he said.

The Budget contained provision for €10m to kick-start the pyrite repair fund. But further funds will have to be found in the years ahead to pay for the overall bill of up to €50m to repair 1,000 homes.

Pyrite, also known as 'fool's gold', is a mineral that expands in the presence of moisture and oxygen. It has been found in infill material used in houses and has caused cracking, splitting and buckling of walls, floors and ceilings. The average bill for each house which has to be repaired is estimated at €50,000.  Homeowners must vacate the premises during remediation, which includes removal of the concrete ground floor and of the subfloor hardcore.

Mr Hogan’s pyrite bill will set up a Pyrite Resolution Board, who will decide on the applications from the owners of pyrite-damaged homes. The hiring of building firms to carry out the repair work will be carried out by the Housing Agency. It is expected that contracts to carry out the work in affected estates will be put out to tender in an attempt to reduce the potential cost to the State. Most of the homes affected are in Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Offaly.

A Government source said that Mr Hogan was keen to get approval for the bill to provide relief to needy homeowners affected by the crisis. The issue also had been a priority for the late Fine Gael Junior Minister Shane McEntee.

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