The Mica Action Group said proposals announced by housing minister Darragh O’Brien on Tuesday will leave the average family with a huge €65,000 shortfall to make up on the cost of rebuilding their crumbling homes.
Minister O’Brien, announcing the €2.2 billion Defective Concrete Block Scheme, said it included ‘significant enhancements’ on what was on offer previously.
However, campaigners say it has been marred by a ‘sliding scale ’which would see families given €145 per square foot of their homes for the first 1,000 square feet only.
After that they would receive €110 per square foot for the next 1,000 square feet and reducing amounts thereafter.
Michael Doherty, the group’s PRO, said the €145 per square foot top rate actually falls short of what would be needed to ensure families are not left out of pocket.
“The reality is we need €150 per square foot. Why do we say that? Because 43 of our scheme applicants have been stage 2 approved by Donegal County Council and the average cost per square foot is €150. It is not an imaginary figure. It is not a contrived figure. It is the reality of what has gone through the council for the first 43 homes.”
Mr. Doherty insisted what is now on offer will lead to eye-watering costs for families.
“We are going to be looking at €145 euros for the first 1,000 square feet, €110 for the next 1,000 square feet and €100 thereafter. What that boils down to for the average family in Donegal - based on 128 applications through the DCC offices is they are going to be €65,000 short on average. That average homeowner is going to be out €65,000. That is unattainable for families.”
The group have described this element of the proposed scheme as an ‘own goal.’
In general, said Mr. Doherty, the proposals appeared something they could have worked with.
“I think it would have been workable. We are missing a lot of detail, that’s the other part of it. We have a lot of detail that we need to run though and the best we could have given this was a guarded welcome and that is still the case.
“But they have absolutely scuppered it here with this sliding scale. If this sliding scale is removed we think we have something we could then go forward with and work with them on the detail of what’s left.”
The action group have been dismayed by what they see as a misleading focus on the decision to increase the maximum grant for option 1 (demolition and rebuild) to €420,000.
“The average home coming in at €360,000 doesn’t come anywhere near triggering the €420,000 cap yet that family is out €65,000 euro. That is the point that has been missed to date and that is the point I believe that needs clarified.
“Even in the smaller homes, if we go down into a 1700 square foot house we are still €30,000 short. These are life-changing sums of money for people in Donegal. That’s where the reality lies and that’s where the disconnect lies. I believe there has been kite-flying going on.”
A core demand of the campaign is that the ‘sliding scale’ is inequitable and needs to be removed as soon as possible.
Leading campaigner Paddy Diver said: “They owe it to the people to do it before Christmas. That is the bottom line and that is the pressure that needs to be put on them. They owe it to the people to get rid of it. Everybody knows it.”
Mr. Doherty said he believes a way forward can be found. “It all depends on the will to implement it. The workable solution - and this shouldn’t take any more than a couple of days as far as we are concerned - is to reflect: does it make sense to say you are getting 100 per cent redress, as has been said on several occasions including on our local radio stations today, while it is still on the other hand costing an average home owner €65,000. Remove the sliding scale. That can be done. They are in a position to do so if they so wish.”
If it isn’t removed the people of Donegal will be taking to the streets again, it was stated.
Said Mr. Doherty: “Go and make that happen. I think that is how it will end up anyway. Or we can do it the hard way and the hard way is the horrible way but this is where we get back to the streets.
“This is where we get back and do all the things that got our campaign to where it is today but I think that would be regrettable if we have to go down that road again, particularly when there is a solution sitting in front of them.”
Mr. Diver added: “If the sliding scale is not removed you’ve more or less signed up to a war.
“You’ve more or less told us come on, bring it on.”