In response to concerns raised by homeowners in Donegal and Mayo regarding the terms of the existing Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, I established a timebound and representative Working Group to consider and report on the issues. I have acknowledged that the current scheme was challenging for all stakeholders and did not operate as intended for homeowners. I have listened to homeowners and the core issues identified in the report of the Working Group will be addressed through a combination of immediate actions, medium term legislative changes and important research and reviews to encompass ongoing critical research and new learnings.
The Government agreed an enhanced €2.2bn Defective Concrete Block scheme on 30 November 2021. The comprehensive changes which target the core issues include:-
- 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 remedial works.
- The current 90% maximum grant payable 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 to €420,000 from €247,500
- The grant calculation methodology will be based on the cost per square foot (psf) of rebuilding the existing home, 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 is set for the first 1,000 sq foot based on SCSI methodology with a sliding scale thereafter.
- 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.
The Housing Agency's role in the enhanced scheme will be significant. They will act as agents on behalf of the local authorities. Applications received by a local authority will be referred to the Housing Agency to review the ‘Building Condition Assessment Report’. Once the criteria has been met for entry to the scheme, the Housing Agency will arrange the assessment, testing and categorisation process as required and recommend the appropriate remediation option and grant amount. This approach removes the financial barrier faced by some homeowners and was one of the key issues discussed at the Working Group meetings. It will also give homeowners the flexibility to manage their own projects and allow them to deal directly with their chosen supervising engineer and building contractor.