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Government signs off on €420,000 grant cap for Mica redress scheme as Opposition TDs claim €45,000 ‘shortfall’


Mica protesters at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mica protesters at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mica protesters at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Cabinet ministers have signed off on a €420,000 cap on a revised mica scheme.

Homeowners of mica-affected homes will be able to seek redress from the State of up to €420,000, minister for housing Darragh O’Brien announced today.

He said that the revised scheme is an “extraordinary” intervention from the State but he said that there is a “moral” obligation on the Government to act on crumbling homes.

It follows a long-running campaign seeking for 100pc redress by mica campaigners.

The total cost of the scheme will be between €2.2bn to €2.3bn, an increase of €800m from the previous defective blocks scheme.

Construction companies will also be asked to contribute €80m per year.

Mr O’Brien said that the scheme will deal with 98pc of mica-affected homes.

He said that he doesn’t expect to lose Government TDs who campaigned for 100pc redress over the revised scheme.

The cap per square foot will initially be €145 per sq ft, which will apply to the first 1,000 sq ft per home.

The cap will then fall to €110 per sq ft, with the caps to be revised next March. Mr O'Brien said that this rate could rise following the review by the Society of Charted Surveyors of Ireland.

Under the revised scheme, alternative accommodation and storage costs to be included, subject to a maximum of €20,000.

Landlords will also be able to seek redress under the scheme for properties they are renting out as long as they are registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

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There will also be mental health supports, according to Minister O’Brien.

An industry levy will come into effect from 2023.

The grant will be calculated on the cost per square foot of rebuilding the existing home and the Department of Housing will agree this cap with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

A “sliding scale” will kick in after an initial rate of €145 per square foot for the first 1,000 sq foot.

It is expected that it will be well into next year before the revised scheme kicks in and that it will be passed through the Dáil before next summer.

Minister O’Brien said that he expects the scheme to be reviewed in several years.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has directly appealed to mica-affected homeowners to accept the new remediation plan.

But two opposition Donegal-based TDs have condemned the latest plan unveiled by Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien, as “totally inadequate” and unacceptable to campaigners, many of whom are based in the west and north-west.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said that as details of the new scheme emerged today it became clear that most householders were facing a shortfall of between €45,000 and €56,000 in rebuilding costs. He said the “devil was in the detail” and earlier discussions between householders and the Housing Minister had not revealed a sliding scale included in the plan in calculating compensation which reduced payments.

The Donegal TD said this was money the families involved did not have. He said they had suffered and lost much but their courageous campaign had won public admiration in Ireland and across the globe.

“The campaigners won the hearts and minds of the Irish people,” Mr Doherty said.

During tense exchanges, the Taoiseach said Sinn Féin had not responded to calls earlier this year for proposals to resolve the problem. “You had no plan, no proposal, and the reason you did not is that you want to exploit this politically,” Mr Martin told Deputy Doherty.

Independent Donegal TD Thomas Pringle said the new proposals were “an advance – but they do not go far enough.” He said somebody demolishing and rebuilding an average-sized house faced a shortfall of €45,000 at a time when they were still paying their original mortgage on homes which had fallen apart.

“You can dress this up any way you want the mica redress group will not be hoodwinked again,” Mr Pringle said.

The Taoiseach said the package was unprecedented and that every TD in the Dáil wanted to help these people and see a resolution. He appealed for acceptance saying otherwise no scheme would be in place to help the stricken homeowners.

Mr Martin said Irish taxpayers would pay €2.2bn and no scheme like it had ever been tabled in the State’s history. He said the detailed scheme calculations should be “depoliticised” as they were now left to a proposal from the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland and could be adjusted on a yearly basis in line with varying costs.

The Taoiseach added that the scheme had new features to cover interim accommodation and storage of property while some investment rental properties were also eligible subject to certain conditions.

Minister for Agriculture and Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue has given his full backing behind the Government's revised redress scheme, having previously said that he wants to see 100pc redress.

"I think this is a really, really strong support scheme, one which will fully support families to have their homes remediated and one which will stand the test of time in terms of being able to be adjusted to reflect reality,” Mr McConalogue said.

He said that he is "absolutely" backing the "very significant, full redress" scheme and said that he has worked "massively hard" with constituency and Cabinet colleagues.

"I want to particularly acknowledge the massive work and the campaigning that has been going on here by homeowners, not because they've wanted to but because out of necessity, because this is fundamental to their homes,” the Fianna Fáil TD said.

He said a regional issue has been turned to a national issue which has been important in getting the scheme signed off by ministers today.

Speaking on the Hard Shoulder on Newstalk, Minister O’Brien said the scheme was a “last resort”.

“There was a failure here, these homes won’t be rebuilt by anyone else, and we need to help residents not just in these two counties but potentially more,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We have also brought forward the principle of a levy within the sector from 2023 that will contribute towards both this scheme and I am acutely aware of another working group which is on fire defects in apartments.”

The Minister said this scheme is a “last resort” and will help people to get their lives back on track.

“These people are really in desperation here. This scheme is a last resort, it is a grant scheme. I think it will work, we’ve got to be able to help people to get their lives back and get their homes back and the priority is going to be family homes.

“We will remediate on the principle of the worst first, so I’ll be bringing in a damage rating I do need legislation to back this up,” he said.

Minister O’Brien said the scheme will cover 98pc of mica-affected homes.

“I’m interested in trying to help as many people as I can. That will cover about 98pc of households. I understand that there will always be exceptions to it, but I would think that anyone, even if they had a house that was valued in excess of this, would still be getting a very significant contribution towards their house.

“In real terms the vast majority of people are going to be getting 100pc redress to help them get their lives back together,” he said.

The cap per square foot will initially be €145 per sq ft, which will apply to the first 1,000 sq ft per home.

The cap will then fall to €110 per sq ft, with the caps to be revised next March.

Minister O’Brien said the cap per square foot will be reviewed in the first quarter of 2022 and each year after.

“The caps are indicative they will be reviewed in the first quarter of next year and each year after that to keep in line with inflation.

“There are 7,500 household owners here who really need to be able to bring this to conclusion and to have a pathway to get their homes fixed. I really believe this is the way forward. It’s €800m in additional enhancements to the scheme,” he said.

He also said that homes where the owner opts for partial remediation will be covered for a period of around a further 40 years should any more mica-related problems emerge.

More to follow...

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