Thursday 19 September 2019

Homeowners hit by suspension of retrofit scheme need help – Sinn Fein

David Cullinane said most reasonable people believed those financially out of pocket by the changes should be assisted.

Sinn Fein climate action spokesman David Cullinane has called for the government to support homeowners (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Sinn Fein climate action spokesman David Cullinane has called for the government to support homeowners (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

By Michelle Devane, PA

Sinn Fein has called for funding to assist homeowners “left in the lurch” by the suspension of the Government’s deep retrofit scheme.

David Cullinane said it was “unfair” that homeowners were allowed to apply for grants when the government knew “full well that the money has dried up”.

The party’s climate action spokesman said homeowners applying for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administered grants should have been informed at the time of their application that funding would not be available.

He added that the State should now be looking at “supporting” those individuals.

The SEAI announced on Tuesday that the deep retrofit programme was suspended.

That's not the way that a government agency and a government department should behave. David Cullinane

The three-year pilot scheme, which offered grants of more than 50% of the costs of a deep retrofit of older homes, was launched in 2017 by the Department of Communications.

The SEAI said it stopped taking applications on July 19 and that only projects which had already been approved to carry out deep retrofits of homes would be given funding.

It means homeowners who applied before the deadline of July 19 and were waiting approval for the grant will not receive any funding.

The SEAI said people should not have started renovation works unless they had formally been issued with a grant. But many homeowners had already begun spending money on improvements.

Mr Cullinane described the scheme as a “fiasco” and a “disaster” and said people who made an application but were not informed that funding had dried up had a “genuine grievance”.

“These people applied in good faith, they applied because they want to retrofit their homes, they want to bring their homes up to a certain standard. The scheme was put in place – they were left in the lurch, contractors were left in the lurch,” he said.

“That’s not the way that a government agency and a government department should behave.”

He added: “There’s a responsibility on the department and the SEAI to support these individuals… if they made these applications in good faith and clearly it wasn’t communicated to them that the money had dried up, I think there’s a clear failure.”

He continued: “The government put this scheme in place, it was a pilot scheme. It hasn’t worked out. It’s been a failure for hundreds of people… I think most reasonable people would see that as unfair and most reasonable people would say they should be supported in whatever way they can.

“If that’s to be reimbursed for the works that have already been done, or some other way to do it, then that’s a matter for the department to look at but I don’t think it’s fair that people should be left in the lurch through no fault of their own.”

Otherwise, Mr Cullinane said it would send out “entirely the wrong message” when people are being encouraged to do what they can to make their homes more energy efficient and meet climate change targets.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section