I propose to take Questions Nos. 1231, 1238 and 1241 together.
Regulations have been made under sections 2 and 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1979 to provide for a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the counties of Donegal and Mayo to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks in Construction (Remediation) (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2020.
The regulations came into operation on 31 January 2020, and my Department is currently in the process of finalising guidelines, which will be available in the coming weeks, to promote and support a consistent approach to the operation and administration of the defective concrete blocks grant scheme by Donegal and Mayo County Councils. The aim now is to commence the receipt of applications without delay.
The defective concrete blocks grant scheme is primarily a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. The scheme outlines five remedial options ranging from rebuilding on existing foundations to replacing of external walls. The maximum approved costs per dwelling under the scheme range from €55,000 to €275,000, depending on the remedial option. A grant of 90% of the approved costs associated with the necessary remediation works, subject to a maximum for each remedial option, or 90% of the actual cost of the remedial works, whichever is the lesser, is available under the scheme.
The scheme is targeted at assisting a specific group of homeowners who have no other practicable options to access redress. It is not a compensation scheme and the regulations apply only in respect of qualifying works that have not commenced prior to confirmation of grant approval being issued in respect of a dwelling by the relevant local authority. Homeowners cannot seek the recoupment of costs associated with the remediation of a dwelling undertaken either prior to the commencement, or outside, of the scheme. This is in line with how similar Government schemes operate or have operated in the past, where prior approval is a key eligibility requirement.
Budget 2020 provides funding of €40 million to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme and the defective concrete blocks grant scheme this year. Funding for future years will be agreed on an annual basis as part of the normal Estimates process. Mindful that the scheme is being funded from the Exchequer, the scope of the scheme cannot be open ended. The funding available must be used prudently to achieve the most efficient and cost effective outcomes.
The defective concrete blocks grant scheme only applies to private dwellings in Donegal and Mayo that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. In respect of local authority housing stock, section 58 of the Housing Act 1966 provides that the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock is a matter for each individual local authority. This includes maintenance programmes and carrying out of responsive repairs and pre-letting repairs. However, my Department is committed to supporting local authorities in terms of various targeted stock upgrade programmes, including issues arising in the context of defective concrete blocks, large-scale urban regeneration programmes, support for the return of vacant units to productive use, the Energy Retrofitting Programme and adaptations and extensions for people with disability in social housing.