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Devil in detail of redress scheme for mica homeowners

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Devil in detail of redress scheme for mica homeowners

Devil in detail of redress scheme for mica homeowners
December 01
16:51 2021
Square-foot caps on rebuilding costs will still leave many property owners out of pocket

Homeowners caught up in the mica scandal said the devil would be in the detail of the revised redress scheme and, now that they have it, there see a lot of devil in there.

The Government trumpeted the scheme’s €2.2 billion in funding to rebuild crumbling homes in Donegal and Mayo affected by defective bricks and offer of 100 per cent redress to the owners of up to 7,500 houses, capped at €420,000 per home. But homeowners who have to demolish and rebuild see big out-of-pocket costs reading the small print in the scheme on the square-foot caps on rebuilding.

Michael Doherty, an affected homeowner and spokesman for the Mica Action Group campaigning for better redress, described the €420,000 figure as a smokescreen.

“The houses are not big enough to reach that figure. The reality is the square-foot costs. For even the smallest of houses, people will have to put their hands into their pockets,” he said.

The scheme’s sliding scale on rebuild costs – from €145 per square foot for the first 1,000sq ft of a home, to €110 for the next 1,000sq ft and €100 thereafter – will mean that affected people could still have to contribute tens of thousands of euro towards the rebuilding of their homes.

For homeowners where the average size of an affected house is 2,300sq ft, this adds all sorts of complications.

‘Jigsaw puzzle’

“When we heard initially it was €145 per square foot, I thought it was brilliant. But when you look at the small print, I am pretty disappointed. It is not 100 per cent redress,” said Donegal homeowner Mary O’Regan, who describes her house as “like a jigsaw puzzle” from all the cracks.

Under the scheme, she estimates that she will have to contribute €51,000 from her own pocket to cover the shortfall based on the costs per square foot.

While she welcomes the additional €15,000 for alternative accommodation and €5,000 for storage, the deficit she has to make up on building costs is not covered by her State pension.

“It is not going to be feasible for me. I am facing homelessness,” she said.

At issue is the actual cost of building work against what is on offer under the scheme.

Mica redress scheme campaigners had baulked at an earlier proposal of €138 per square foot in building costs when few were being quoted less than €150 per square foot as post-pandemic labour shortages and supply chain disruptions had sent the cost of construction soaring.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said the square-footage costs will be reviewed every year by his department in line with inflation and the annual cost of building as set by the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland, the industry guide on rebuild costs which is followed by loss assessors for insurers.

Costs estimate

Homeowners argue the SCSI’s estimate on costs for the northwest – set at €138 per square foot earlier this year – is already out of date, given the increasing cost of building materials this year alone.

Campaigners point to 34 houses already being fixed by Donegal County Council that are costing the local authority €150 per square foot.

The cheapest quote Angeline Kelly could get to rebuild her damaged 2,600sq ft home on the Inishowen peninsula was €155 per square foot.

She estimated she would still need to cover a shortfall of almost €64,000, based on the sliding-scale rates under what she described as the “so-called” enhanced scheme.

“I am absolutely devastated, disgusted and disappointed. I feel that our Government has just driven a final nail in the coffin for mica homeowners,” she said. “Where did this sliding scheme come out of?”

Mr Doherty expressed concern that the department – “in consultation” with the SCSI – would be reviewing the annual square-foot costs on a rolling basis.

The Government might see the sliding scale as a way of managing the cost of the scheme, but for people costing rebuilding jobs in the industry it is highly unusual.

“It is a bit odd. I don’t know how that works out in reality. If you were trying to work out a reinstatement value, you wouldn’t split it like that,” said Noel Larkin, a chartered surveyor in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, who described the SCSI guide as a “ready reckoner”.

More small – but important – print yet to be decided is who exactly will bear the burden of the industry levy, introduced from 2023, to pay for his scheme.

Source: The Irish Times

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