Mica Action Group says 'serious flaws and gaps remain' in announced Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme

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The Mica Action Group has responded to the signing off regulations to bring in the revised Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme, stating that ‘serious flaws and gaps remain’.

Lisa Hone, Chair of the Mica Action Group stated: “Despite declarations of Government Ministers, TDs and Senators expressing urgency and concern about the seriousness of the issue and the devastating impact on those affected, homeowners feel utterly let down that this has not been translated into actions.”

She added: “Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien claims positive engagement with homeowners, however those affected do not regard having pre-legislative scrutiny denied, legislative and regulatory amendments ignored, their genuine concerns serially dismissed or being excluded completely as positive engagement.

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“The Minister also talks about schemes evolving; however this is Government’s second go at getting this scheme right. The facts have been repeatedly and plainly laid in front of them, whether it be the lived experience of those affected, case studies, statistics, scientific evidence and zero cost solutions put forward by homeowners themselves. There is no excuse why this scheme should not fully resolve the issues, however this is not the case.”

Affected homeowners were seeking 100% redress.Affected homeowners were seeking 100% redress.
Affected homeowners were seeking 100% redress.

MAG added that, due to the mammoth campaign mounted by homeowners there is progress in certain areas, but that they and many affected homeowners alike have articulated serious concerns about the revised scheme with regard to the exclusion of foundations, the failure to prioritise the vulnerable, the absence of suitable accommodation, the issues surrounding the Certificate of Remediation including the lack of meaningful and timely engagement with the banking and insurance sectors, the forcing of people to build to lapsed construction standards and the ‘clear fact that this scheme does not represent 100% of true costs and will undoubtedly leave very significant numbers of homeowners with shortfalls of tens of thousands of euros’.

MAG outlined how zero-cost options such as penalty free downsizing, transfer of eligibility and side-by-side building ‘would provide greater flexibility for homeowners and would not cost the State a cent more’.

They said that thousands of homes and other affected structures are excluded and that ‘if Government think the DCB Scheme is resolution, they should ask themselves why over 2000 families and growing, feel they need to sign up to a legal case to seek true redress.’

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MAG is particularly concerned how the most vulnerable will navigate the demands of the scheme.

Thousands of people campaigned for redress for their homes.Thousands of people campaigned for redress for their homes.
Thousands of people campaigned for redress for their homes.

Lisa Hone asked: “Is it reasonable to demand that thousands of homeowners of advanced age, those dealing with profoundly serious illnesses and/or disability navigate a complex 3 stage application process and project manage a demolition, rebuild and two house moves?”

“Homeowners can avail of an accommodation and storage allowance with the new scheme, but it does not magically produce the homes that people require. Many homeowners dealing with illness and disability tell us it is impossible for them to find suitable accommodation. If they can’t find alternative accommodation, they can’t access the scheme. The MAG homeowner survey indicates there are at least 3,200 homeowners with chronic health conditions, 2,600 people with chronic mental illness and a further 2,600 homeowners with mobility issues.

“In addition, the general lack of alternative accommodation means homeowners face the prospect of being uprooted from their communities away from schools, work and family support networks.”

Technical Issues Persist

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Ms Hone added: "It is ironic that despite the scheme being severely delayed many questions around technical issues persist. Following the submission of powerful scientific research from Prof Paul Dunlop, Dr Andreas Leemann and other international experts evidencing the main issue homeowners are dealing with is the effect of oxidisation of iron sulphides such as pyrrhotite, Government finally agreed to undertake a review of IS465. Further scientific research is being conducted but the results will not be available until the end of the year at the earliest – leaving homeowners feeling anxious and unable to make informed decisions about the implications for foundations and remediation options that leave defective blocks in their home.

“Such scientific research will also have a bearing on how worthy the Certificate of Remediation issued on completion of rebuild proves with banks, mortgage holders and insurers. It is evident there has been little meaningful engagement between Government and such organisations to date, despite a key principle on which the scheme will be judged being whether remediated homes are once again fully insurable, saleable and mortgageable at full market value.”

Resource Questioned

Only 37 houses have been remediated in the three years since the original scheme was launched in 2020. MAG said it also has concerns about whether the new scheme has sufficient resource to operate in an efficient and responsive manner.

"All Government bodies who administer the scheme have a responsibility to understand the impact of their actions on the homeowners concerned, given the sensitivities surrounding this issue. Utmost consideration must be made of homeowners’ circumstances in the communication, responsiveness and provision of information to avoid any further unnecessary stress. To date this has not been the case with homeowners feeling abandoned to an information

vacuum.

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“Over 5000 homes are estimated to be affected in Co. Donegal alone, yet just over 1300 have applied to the original scheme, indicating that there is a tsunami of those affected waiting in the wings. Government can no longer live on promises. They must now face the acid test of putting the scheme into operation, where the reality for all concerned will quickly become apparent.”

You can read the government announcement and Minister O’Brien’s comments here

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