I tried to do some background research into this matter earlier because I was not terribly familiar with the scheme. I know the Deputy raised this issue a number of weeks ago. I thank him for raising it again this morning. I will outline the Department's response.
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 Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government in its report, Safe as Houses? A Report on Building Standards, Building Controls and Consumer Protection. These commitments are further supported by actions contained in the Housing For All strategy. In this context, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, established ä working group to examine defects in housing under the chairmanship of Mr. Seamus Neely, former chief executive of Donegal County Council. The plenary working group has been meeting monthly since last March, with the exception of August, in addition to having subgroup meetings. The group's terms of reference were adopted in May and are focused on purpose-built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 and 2013 in Ireland. The Minister considers it worthwhile to state these terms of reference for the information of the House.
The primary term of reference of the working group is to examine the defects having regard to the recommendations contained in chapter 4, item 4, of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government's Safe as Houses? A Report on Building Standards, Building Controls and Consumer Protection. Item 4 is entitled "Addressing the legacy of bad building and poor regulation".
The second term of reference of the working group is to establish the nature of significant, widespread fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects in purpose-built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 and 2013 in Ireland. This is being done 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.
The third term of reference is to establish the scale of the issue. This will include work to estimate the number of dwellings affected by defects identified, including those already remediated. The fourth term of reference is to consider a methodology for the categorisation of defects and the prioritisation of remedial action. In the case of defects with fire safety implications, the working group is considering 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.
The fifth term of reference is to suggest mechanisms for resolving defects in the context of 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. The working group will also evaluate the potential cost of technical remediation options and pursue options on possible financial solutions in order 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.
The Minister is satisfied the group is working effectively and efficiently on this complex matter, and I look forward to a report in due course following completion of the deliberations. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific residential developments at this juncture. I assure the Deputy, however, that when the Minister receives the report of the working group, full consideration will be given to its contents. I will take back to the Minister the request the Deputy made in respect of his meeting the residents in this specific case. There is no doubt that the residents, having bought their homes in good faith, have been left in an awful situation.