THE GOVERNMENT has updated its mica redress scheme, with the maximum grant cap now set to be raised to €420,000, up from €247,500.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien made the announcement today, Tuesday 30 November, after affected homeowners raised concerned related to cost recovery and assurances regarding remediated homes.
Campaigners in Donegal had rejected an earlier proposal that would see payments set at €138 per square foot.
Now, they will be able to receive €145 per square foot on the first 1,000 feet of a property, with the scheme expected to come to a cost of €2 billion.
The current 90% maximum grant will also be increased to a 100% grant for all remediation options.
Alternative accommodation and storage costs are to be included in the scheme, subject to a maximum of €20,000.
Rental properties will also be brought into the scheme, provided they were registered with the Residential Tenancies Board at the start of November 2021.
The scheme can also be expanded beyond homes in Donegal and Mayo to additional counties as appropriate and required.
Minister O'Brien acknowledged the affected homeowners and thanked them for their involvement in the process, saying he recognised the toll the scandal has placed on them.
"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," he said.
"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."
He noted how there are potentially more than 7,500 affected homes, including social homes, and said the Housing Agency will, in time, "act as agents for each local authority in assessment, testing and categorisation of applications received," which will ensure work is carried out first on the most damaged homes.
O'Brien announced that a levy on the construction industry may be put in place to cover some of the costs associated with the scheme, and will be applicable from 2023.
“Just as important as the changes to the scheme, we also need to ensure this type of crisis never happens again," he said.
"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."
He said government will explore all options in pursuing liable wrongdoers, and that he will continue to work with the Attorney General in this regard.
Spokesperson for the Mica Action Group Michael Doherty said the "devil is in the detail" of the scheme on RTÉ News at One.
He said he spoke to the minister for 20 minutes on the phone, after which new details emerged.
The group is concerned with plans to introduce a sliding scale of remediation over 1,000 square feet, as the average size of houses impacted is between 2,300 and 2,4000 sq feet.
Therefore, the largest part of the house will be assessed on a sliding scale.
"That's not something we can accept," he said.
He said he understood there must be a cap, but that the scheme discriminates against those who have larger houses.