Thursday, 19 January 2017
Pyrite Remediation Programme
8. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his plans to amend the pyrite remediation scheme; if he is satisfied sufficient funding is available to ensure all homeowners whose properties have been damaged by pyrite can have their properties remediated and-or certified as pyrite free; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2021/17]
This question is on the pyrite remediation scheme and whether the Minister is satisfied the scheme has sufficient funding and structure to ensure all homeowners affected by pyrite have a remedy of having their property remediated or, in the instance of this not happening, obtaining a green certificate because sadly, the reality on the ground is the scheme is deficient. Has the Minister noted this and does he have plans to change it? Is he happy there is enough money to deal with everything? What is the lie of the land at present?
With regard to the funding, based on the figures of recent years, the €22 million allocated for this year's budget should be sufficient to deal with the applications going through the process where properties have sufficient damage to be fixed. Last year, more than 400 properties were completed and 553 properties have been completed in total. The €22 million should cover another 450 or 500 properties. Last August, additional resources and another €7 million were allocated. If the money to fix the houses is spent quicker during the year we will apply for more money if needs be to address it. The figures are that so far, 553 properties are complete, 201 are at remedial work planning stage, 77 are at tender stage and 242 are under remediation. There is enough money for this year's spend. As the years go on, more houses will need to be addressed because the scheme is open-ended.
The Deputy is probably speaking about properties which have not been approved for remedial works and people who feel they have been left in limbo. The standards are being reviewed through public consultation. When the process is complete we will have a look at it and see what categories of people remain. I am conscious there are people who feel they are being left in limbo because their houses do not qualify for remedial works but the association with pyrite is causing them difficulty. We are prepared to look at this. There are no plans in place to change the scheme. I am conscious of the people in this category and we will see what we can do. The first part is to have the complete the review with regard to the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI.
I agree with the Minister of State as in my experience money is not the problem. The reason I tabled the question is there is a problem and thousands of homeowners whose properties have pyrite are being excluded from the scheme not just because of the manner in which it was established but because of the manner in which the board has chosen to interpret the conditions. I have had repeated replies to parliamentary questions where I am told dwellings which do not have a damage condition rating of 2 are not eligible to apply. This is not true. When the pyrite panel report was done, properties with damage condition ratings of less than 2 were eligible to apply for the scheme. We were told a common sense approach would arise in the case of adjoining dwellings. This common sense approach has not happened. When will the new NSAI standard be introduced? It will not solve anything because based on what we have seen it is only a technical re-evaluation of matters. With regard to a common sense approach, why are adjacent or nearby properties not included in phases when works have been already approved?
I do not have a date for when the new standard will apply. I hope the work will be completed very shortly because it is important to have it. It might change the situation for some people. At least when we have the new standard we can judge where it goes afterwards.
The Deputy spoke about common sense. The criteria are very tight and clear with regard to how money will be spent. It is taxpayers' money. There is a huge cost in the remedial work to these houses. I have been in the houses and people will admit it is questionable to warrant spending €50,000 of taxpayers' money to fix a house where significant damage has not progressed. This is what we must ask ourselves. It does not solve the problem because people are left in limbo and still have pyrite in their houses. It is at a low level but it is there and they cannot sell the property. It is an issue. The question that must be asked is whether we spend a lot of money fixing a house which does not yet have significant damage. There is a commitment that if damage progresses there is no closure date for the scheme and those houses will be fixed, but we must question the value for money aspect. I have told people we will try to find solutions if we can for those who feel their lives are on hold because they are in the wrong category but still have pyrite associated with their house.
As the Minister of State has said, money is not the problem and no one is asking him to spend money that does not need to be spent. The reality is there are properties which are not being remediated. Perhaps they do not need to be remediated, but if they do not then those people must have access to a green certificate which states an end point has been reached and the property is fit for resale.
The Minister of State has said there is no closure. There certainly is not for these people because while this process continues they cannot move on. They are stuck in a grey area. I know many of them are in the Minister of State's constituency. We need an urgent review of this category. We need to go back to the pyrite panel report. It was not as prescriptive as the board is now interpreting it. It means the grey area category in the middle is bigger than it needs to be. I am arguing that greater flexibility be allowed by the standard set in the scheme then is actually being interpreted. As there is a of a stand-off now and nobody with a damage condition rating of 2 is included, then for this logjam to be shifted the Department needs to step in and argue for what I would say is a bit of common sense and look at properties with a damage condition rating of 1 with progression.
In Lusk there is a cul-de-sac with nine properties where one property is looking for inclusion as it would complete the entire cul-de-sac, but it is not being remediating it in the same phase as the other houses. It will be done five phases later. This means remediation work will happen on the road twice. It is ridiculous.
It is not due to a lack of common sense. The criteria are very tight and rightly so because it is taxpayers' money. The priority is to fix the houses with considerable damage which are very badly affected. This is what we are trying to do. More than 1,400 applications have been made, 553 have been fixed and 500 are in play this year. We are trying to deal with those in bad need of remedial works. This is the priority. I accept there are people in the next category with pyrite levels in their house or who have pyrite associated with their estate and they cannot sell their house. However, this does not necessarily justify spending €50,000 on a house if it does not need to be fixed yet. This is not common sense either. I agree with the Deputy we must find a solution whereby we can address this. I am being asked by some people to spend money on houses that do not need it. In fairness to the Deputy, she is not doing so but others have.
I accept that. This is what I am saying, we must find a way to deal with it. This is why the new standard that will be announced shortly, I hope, might help us to achieve this in some cases. If not, we will have to go even further again. I am committed to trying to find a process to end this limbo. I accept that, but I ask the Deputy not to tell me there is a lack of common sense because there is not. There are criteria for a reason. It is taxpayers' money. More than €50 million has been spent so far, which is lot of money to spend on houses, but rightly so when they need it.