FAMILIES who lost their homes in the notorious Priory Hall development are to have their mortgages written off and will be given loans for new properties under a deal offered to residents.
The former residents, whose lives have been ruined by the Priory Hall debacle for over two years, will be handed pre-approved mortgages on their new homes.
The major breakthrough means residents will finally become homeowners again and can forget about the crippling mortgage debt on the doomed apartments.
About 90 families were left in limbo after being evacuated from the 'firetrap' apartments – built by rogue developer Tom McFeely.
Now they are being given "an opportunity to get on with their lives", according to Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
He called new proposals put to residents in recent days a "breakthrough" and said that he believed it was "a fair and reasonable outcome".
The plan, developed over the past three weeks, could see the final costs for cleaning up the Priory Hall mess approach €20m.
The cost of this will ultimately be paid by the taxpayer.
The Department of the Environment last night refused to release details of the deal, saying that residents had asked for an opportunity to "consider the proposals carefully".
However, the Irish Independent has established that under the proposals:
* Owner-occupiers will have their mortgages written off and new loans will be provided so they can purchase replacement homes within the next year.
* Ownership of their flats will be transferred to Dublin City Council, which will completely refurbish the development.
* Buy-to-let owners won't have to pay refurbishment costs, and will retain ownership of their properties.
* Those who paid cash for their properties or paid sizable cash deposits when buying flats will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The cost of writing off the mortgages at the development in Donaghmede, north Dublin, has been estimated at about €5m, with Dublin City Council expected to plunge a further €10m into refurbishment.
With €3m already spent on temporary accommodation for the evacuated residents, and more than €600,000 a year being spent on security for the site, the final sum will come to as much as €20m.
Priory Hall gained renewed prominence in recent weeks after the public outcry over the death by suicide of former resident Fiachra Daly.
His partner Stephanie Meehan wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny blaming Fiachra's death on the pressure of dealing with losing their home.
A spokesman for Priory Hall residents, Graham Usher, said that he would not be commenting on the proposals until they had been discussed with the 90 families affected.
A spokesman for Dublin City Council said: "We have received the minister's statement and we will continue to work with all parties concerned to resolve the Priory Hall issue."
The flats were evacuated in October 2011. Mr McFeely has since been declared bankrupt in the High Court.
In recent weeks, €200,000 has been found stashed in the broke builder's former home, although he denied all knowledge of the cash when he was asked about it by a Sunday newspaper.
He also continued to deny that the apartments at Priory Hall were substandard.
Mr Hogan last night said that the framework of the deal that had been put to residents "recognises the exceptional and unique difficulties faced by the homeowners in Priory Hall".
Labour Party councillor for Donaghmede Brian McDowell welcomed the news, saying: "The residents of Priory Hall have lived through two years of hell and a solution which allows them to move on with their lives is good news."
By Cormac McQuinn