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Thursday 28 August 2014

New levy to fund €50m scheme for pyrite homes

DANIEL McCONNELL CHIEF REPORTER

Published 16/12/2012 | 05:00

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A levy on construction materials is to be introduced which will be used to fund a €50m redress scheme to almost 1,000 homeowners affected by pyrite.

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The Sunday Independent has learned that Environment Minister Phil Hogan is to bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday which will outline the terms of the levy and the scheme.

It is believed the Government will establish a Special Purpose Vehicle, which will be administered by Homebond, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and the Irish Concrete Federation (ICF).

Pyrite, a naturally occurring mineral, was included in hard-core used in the foundations of some homes and later became unstable and caused major structural damage in the homes, including cracking and buckling of walls and floors.

While the average cost of repairing a house affected by pyrite is said to be between €30,000 and €45,000, with an estimated fund of €50m, 829 affected homeowners potentially will receive on average of €60,000, sources have said.

While it is Mr Hogan who will be bringing the measure to Cabinet, the Pyrite campaign has been long supported by junior Fine Gael minister Shane McEntee.

"I am happy that there has been a resolution on this matter," Mr McEntee said.

The Government has been under increasing pressure in recent months to address the suffering of pyrite-affected homeowners; however, there is some concern that the redress scheme is being funded by another "sneaky tax", which was not announced on Budget Day.

But there was more good news for pyrite homeowners last Friday, when Finance Minister Michael Noonan said they would be exempted from paying the property tax.

The Pyrite Action Group (PAG) said it welcomed the move as it was a "recognition of the hardship" faced by pyrite homeowners.

Sandra Lewis, of the PAG, said she was delighted that at last an end was in sight.

"A year ago no one wanted to speak about pyrite, but now it seems we have a conclusion. The dreadful impact of living with pyrite cannot be underestimated. We are having to live in unsafe houses. In some cases the cracks are so big we can't keep heat in or rodents out," she said.

Ms Lewis singled out Mr McEntee and independent TDs Clare Daly and Catherine Murphy for praise as the politicians who did the most to help them seek redress.

Fianna Fail's environment spokesman Barry Cowen said he welcomed the fact that progress appeared imminent, but he would reserve judgement until he had the full facts.

"We have given the minister the benefit of the doubt on this, and he said that if agreement wasn't reached with the stakeholders, he would impose the levies. If this is secure through agreement rather than imposition, this will have a much greater chance of success," he said.

In July the Pyrite Panel, set up by Mr Hogan, said stakeholders including the CIF, the ICF and Homebond should fund repairs to damaged houses and contribute to a remediation fund.

Sunday Independent

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