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Housing Provision

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 15 September 2021

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Questions (311, 320)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

311. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide a point-by-point report of the progress made to date in respect of the Programme for Government commitments in respect of housing defects; and the status of the work of the Independent Working Group to examine the issue of defective housing. [43284/21]

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Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

320. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a response will issue to a request in regard to fire defects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43552/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government sets out a range of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects. This includes the commitment to ensure that the remediation fund for pyrite and mica is fully drawn down. In this context, €40m was provided under Budget 2021 to cover the implementation of the pyrite remediation scheme and the Defective Concrete Blocks Grants Scheme in 2021. This allocation is a clear signal of the continuing importance attached by Government to addressing the issue of significant pyritic damage and defective concrete blocks in private dwellings.

In regard to the pyrite remediation scheme, the latest figures available indicate that 2,971 applications have been received under the Scheme and, so far, 2,472 dwellings have been included, with 2,222 complete.

The latest figures available in relation to the Defective Concrete Blocks grant scheme indicate that 513 stage 1 applications have been received with 382 approved as eligible.

In response to concerns being raised about the Defective Concrete Blocks Grants scheme by homeowners in Donegal and Mayo, I established a working group to review specific aspects of the current scheme. On the request of the homeowner representatives, the timeframe for the working group has been extended to September 30th 2021.

 Separately, there is a commitment to examine the issue of defects in housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, “Safe as Houses” and to assist owners of latent defect properties by identifying options for those impacted by defects to access low cost, long term finance.

In this context, I established a working group to examine defects in housing. The plenary working group has been meeting monthly since March 2021, in addition to subgroup meetings. The group’s terms of reference were adopted in May 2021 and include:

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.

5. 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. 

6. 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.  

7. Evaluate the potential cost of technical remediation options.

8. 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.

9. 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 will seek to engage 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 am satisfied that the group is working effectively and efficiently on this complex matter and I look forward to a report in due course following completion of their deliberation.  Once I receive the report I will give full consideration to its contents, any further speculation or discussion on the output of the working group is premature at this stage.

Finally, in regard to income tax relief and Vat, taxation issues are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance. 

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