Written answers

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Defective Building Materials

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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304. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the locations of defective apartments, by county and local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62445/21]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects and provides for an examination of defects in housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, "Safe as Houses". These commitments are further supported by actions contained in Housing For All.

In this context, I established a working group to examine defects in housing. The plenary working group has been meeting monthly since March 2021 (except for August), in addition to subgroup meetings.

The group’s terms of reference were adopted in May 2021 and are focused on purpose built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 and 2013 in Ireland.Part of the work of the group is to establish the scale of the issue, including estimating the number of dwellings affected and their location. The full terms of reference of the Working Group are to:

1. Examine defects in housing having regard to the recommendations in Item 4 “Addressing the legacy of bad building and poor regulation” in Chapter 4 of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government report - ‘Safe as Houses? A Report on Building Standards, Building Controls and Consumer Protection’.

2. Establish the nature of significant, wide-spread fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects in purpose built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 – 2013 in Ireland through consultation with affected homeowners, homeowner representative organisations, owners’ management companies, relevant managing agents, public representatives, local authorities, product manufacturers, building professionals, industry stakeholders, insurance providers, mortgage providers and other relevant parties. Including such matters as:

- Identification and description of defect,

- Nature of defect – design, product, workmanship,

- Non-compliance with building regulations or actual damage,

- Severity/risk to life or serviceability of dwelling,

- Period of construction affected,

- Type of dwelling affected,

- Location of dwellings affected.

3. Establish the scale of the issue – estimate number of dwellings affected by the defects identified including those already remediated.

4. Consider a methodology for the categorisation of defects and the prioritisation of remedial action.

- In the case of defects with fire safety implications, consider how the framework for enhancing fire safety in dwellings can be applied to mitigate the risks arising from fire safety defects pending the remediation of defects and the Code of Practice for Fire Safety Assessment of Premises and Buildings, which is currently being developed by National Directorate of Fire and Emergency Management.

5. Suggest mechanisms for resolving defects, in the context of the legal rights, duties and obligations of developers, builders, building professionals, insurers, mortgage providers, building control authorities, fire authorities, owners’ management companies, owner occupiers, renters and landlords, including:

- Technical options for the remediation of dwellings,

- Efficient means of carrying out work,

- Individual dwellings or whole building approach,

- Routine maintenance/refurbishment or remediation,

- Structures or delivery channels needed to facilitate resolution – advice and support.

6. Evaluate the potential cost of technical remediation options.

7. Pursue options on possible financial solutions to effect a resolution, in line with the Programme for Government commitment to identify options for those impacted by defects to access low-cost, long-term finance.

8. To report to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the Examination of Defects in Housing.

In regard to the working group’s deliberations, the group is engaging with a range of interested parties, including homeowners, public representatives, local authorities, product manufacturers, building professionals and industry stakeholders, among others to examine the issue of defects in housing and report to me on the matter. Consultation with the relevant parties has commenced and further arrangements in this regard are currently being put in place by the working group.

I look forward to receiving the report of the Working Group when it has concluded its deliberations.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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305. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the status of the new mica redress proposals; if there will be assurances regarding the integrity of independence in relation to the SCSI figures in February 2022; if he will affirm his commitment to review the current sliding scale which is presently unacceptable to the homeowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62446/21]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I brought a Memorandum on an enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme to Government on the 30 November 2021 and it included an unprecedented suite of improvements to the current scheme. Government approved the enchanced scheme which it is estimated will cost approximately €2.2Bn. The comprehensive changes 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 from €247,500 to €420,000

- The grant calculation methodology in resepct of option 1 remediation will be based on a cost per square foot with costings to be set by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI). An indicative rate of €145 per square foot for the first 1,000 sq foot with a sliding scale thereafter has been announced by my Department and this will be subject to review as required in line with construction cost changes. In the case of remediation options 2-5 a similar but necessarily different approach will be taken to inform the appropriate rate for blockwork removal and replacement following consultation with SCSI

- 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. The Housing Agency will take over testing, sampling and categorisation of homes on behalf of homeowners and local authorities and will thereafter recommend the appropriate remediation option and grant amount for each home.

- Alternative accommodation and storage costs are 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 Principal Private Residences only, to also cover Residential Tenancies Board 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.

Full details in relation to the changes announced are available at the following link;

www.gov.ie/en/press-release/e365e-minister-obrien-announces-enhancements-to-the-defective-concrete-block-scheme/

In determining the indicative cost per square foot to be used, my Department consulted with the SCSI in relation to their re-build calculator.The purpose of those discussions was to gain a full understanding of the methodology behind the SCSI rebuild guide and whether in fact it was a suitable benchmark for the scheme. The discussions also involved consideration of what role SCSI could play in assisting my Department with up to date information on construction costs.

Following the Government decision on the enhanced scheme, I and officials from my Department met with the SCSI on the 3December 2021 to work on terms of reference for further engagement on the issue of costs. The SCSI will be completely independent in any engagement on this issue. I aim to bring forward final proposals and legislation in respect of the enhanced scheme in early 2022.

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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306. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the way he has arrived at a mooted figure of €400 million for County Clare given there is no quantification of the scale of the defective concrete block issue as of yet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62478/21]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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I brought a Memorandum to Government on 30 November 2021, setting out proposals for improvements to the existing Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme.

Included as part of these improvements, I, as Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, may, with Government approval, extend the scheme beyond the counties of Donegal and Mayo to additional counties, where the evidence supports such an extension.

My Department is in advanced discussions with Clare County Council on the outstanding requirements necessary to support an extension of the scheme to county Clare.

My Department has not released any cost estimates for the remediation of affected homes on a county by county basis.

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