The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has announced significant enhancements to the Defective Concrete Block Scheme.
Minister O’Brien said the core issues raised in relation to the current Scheme, i.e. homeowner concerns relating to cost recovery and assurances regarding the remediated homes would be addressed through immediate actions while administrative, technical and scientific issues would be addressed through medium term legislative changes and critical longer-term research.
Key improvements to the Scheme include:
-The current 90% maximum grant will be increased to a 100% grant for all remediation options 1-5
-The maximum grant cap for option 1 (demolition and rebuild) will be increased to €420,000 from €247,500
- The grant calculation methodology will be based on the cost per square foot (psf) of rebuilding the existing home, with costings to be set by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. An indicative rate of €145 per square foot for the first 1,000 sq foot based on SCSI methodology with a sliding scale thereafter.
- A revised application process will be introduced which will only require the homeowner to submit an initial ‘Building Condition Assessment’ at minimal cost recoupable on entry to the Scheme
- Alternative accommodation and storage costs to be included, subject to a maximum of €20,000
- In relation to works carried out under remediation options 2-5, a second grant option, will be available for such a home in the future if blockwork which was not removed as part of the initial remediation work subsequently proves defective in accordance with the IS;465 standard
- A new independent appeals process will be introduced
- The Scheme will be extended beyond the current scope of Principle Private Residences only, to also cover RTB registered rental properties, subject to the introduction of a clawback mechanism upon re-sale within a set time period depending on the remediation option used. Opportunities for the State to acquire such rental properties for social housing purposes will also be examined.
Minister O’Brien acknowledged the affected homeowners and thanked them for their involvement in the process saying, “Since establishing the working group just five months ago, affected homeowners have put a significant amount of time and effort into working with my Department and the Housing Agency on enhancements to the Scheme which will ultimately help them to rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives which have been so badly impacted by defective concrete blocks. In recognition of the extreme toll this has had on people’s mental health enhanced mental health supports will also be made available to defective concrete block homeowners in the affected counties in collaboration with the Department of Health.
“We are making a number of significant enhancements to the current scheme, removing the 10% contribution from homeowners and increasing the maximum grant cap to €420,000. We are removing upfront prohibitive costs, providing alternative accommodation costs, giving planning exemptions for like-for-like homes, and introducing a strengthened certification process for remediated homes. We want the affected homeowners to have confidence in this scheme and to know they are being supported by Government.
“Peoples’ safety has always been our immediate concern and I have requested that a fund be made available so that any costs associated with essential health and safety works, on foot of an engineer’s recommendation as part of the ‘Building Condition Assessment’ process will explicitly be an allowable cost, subject to a maximum of €5,000.
“It’s important to note there are potentially more than 7,500 affected homes, including social homes, and in recognition of the mammoth task which local authorities face, the Housing Agency will, in time, act as agents for each local authority in assessment, testing and categorisation of applications received. This will ensure an appropriate schedule of works will be done with the most damaged family homes remediated first.
“I do not underestimate the scale of works which will be carried out and the associated costs which will be incurred by the State. As such a levy on the construction industry will be put in place. It will be developed next year and will be introduced in Finance Bill 2022 to apply from 2023.
“Just as important as the changes to the scheme, we also need to ensure this type of crisis never happens again. To prevent future problems the government is also establishing a new Building Standards regulator, a Building Industry register and tasking the NSAI with reviewing concrete block standards to ensure the highest standards are complied with into the future.
“Let me be very clear in saying this Government will also explore all options in pursuing potentially liable wrongdoers and I will continue to work with the Attorney General in this regard.
“I have consistently said the State has a moral obligation to assist affected homeowners and that is what we are doing through this enhanced scheme,” he concluded.