Homeowners will be asked to ‘boycott’ any unsatisfactory Mica Redress Scheme

Mica Action Group PRO Michael Doherty has described ‘leaks’ on what could possibly be included in the scheme as ‘extremely difficult’ for homeowners to read and hear.

By Laura Glenn
Friday, 12th November 2021, 1:00 pm
Thousands of homeowners are awaiting news on a revised scheme.
Thousands of homeowners are awaiting news on a revised scheme.

The campaigner was speaking after a report in the Irish Times stated that a ‘cap’ of 400,000 euro per homeowner is being considered.

Other reports across national media in recent weeks have spoken of caps of varying figures and conflicting reports on whether second home and rental properties will be included on the scheme.

Speaking to the Journal, Michael said ‘there is no thought given to homeowners reading that.’

“You take the family living in a rented home, who read an article recently saying they’d be covered and thought; ‘Thank God, the landlord will be able to sort this house we’ve been living in for 10 years. And then this week, there are reports it’s off the table completely.’

The revised scheme was due to go to Cabinet last Tuesday and then this Tuesday. It is now understood it will go forward on Tuesday week.

Michael said he does believe that Minister for Housing Daragh O’Brien is ‘trying to make it happen’ and is coming up against difficulties.

“The bottom line is, if they fail to come up with what we feel is a satisfactory outcome for the vast majority of our affected homeowners, we will be calling people to boycott is completely and have nothing to do with it until there is a better scheme. It will be a hard nosed position, but it is the only position we have left to us.

“If, on the other hand, it is something we believe we can work with, even if it is not hitting everything we are looking for, but we feel there is enough - there are enough homeowners out there on their last legs who need something to work with - but it really depends on what threshold there is and if there is something we can work with or reject.

“If it’s something we can work with, we’ll bag that and allow homeowners to benefit from redress and the fight continues for the others, but there has to be a critical mass that are satisfied with the new scheme proposal. We haven’t seen what it looks like but the Minister is very clear on what our bottom line asks are and it is up to him to make it happen.”

Michael outlined how a cap of 400,000 euro would not cover around 30% of homeowners, 500,000 ‘leaves around 4% of people behind,’

“The closer we are to 500,000, the better it works for us, If it was anywhere near 350 or 400,000 we wouldn’t see it as something we’re prepared to work with.’

Michael said there were reports that second homes were ‘over the line’ but claims there may have been ‘backpeddling’ on that.

They are ‘getting noises’ about a State-backed guarantee or similar but said they would be ‘very sceptical about the detail.’

Michael stressed that the detail of any scheme is crucial and gave an example of how the Local Property Tax exemption highlights the importance of this.

“There are 6,600 people affected by mica. But then you saw the small print on the exemption and it said you had to have your house tested and Stage One approved before you are considered a mica home. Bearing in mind there are only about 460 people registered, the maximum amount of people who can benefit from the exemption is 460 out of 6,600.

“We need to go through everything with a fine tooth comb before we’d get excited one way or another.

“Another example is the 90/10 scheme. Government Ministers thought it was a 90/10 and then, with the small print, it was turned into a 60/40.

“It’s all about saving money for the Exchequer and we are not falling for that twice.’

Michael said he has made it clear to the Minister that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’

“If it takes another two weeks to get the deal over the line, make sure it’s the right one. Right now they are talking and doors are still open.

“The Housing Minister is very aware we have our plan Bs and I don’t think he wants to see any of them coming his way.”

Michael outlined how campaigners are ‘not plucking figures out of thin air’ and said there are two important elements to consider in relation to housing costs, in that there are ‘two caps.’

“The first cap is the square foot rate that, right now, is the bare minimum that puts a house together in our part of the world.

“It’s a nationally used barometer, used by industries like insurance. It looks at things like where you’re living, if a house is semi-detached, in an estate, how many storeys you have, and they fill out that calculator and it gives a number and it’s the square foot rate.

“We also know there are three different levels of finish: basic, mid and high finish. I know there are a lot of high finish, as over 20 years you build up something that starts out as a box into something that is your castle.

“That’s the figure they’re going to present us with and it’s the very basic number that gets you the house.

“If you have a cap of 400,000 euro and have a house that is 2,000 square feet, that would technically allow you around 200 euro per square foot, but they’re not going to give you that.

“They will give you a rate, on a pro-rata basis, so if it’s 130 per square foot, then you won’t get the 400,000, so that’s already a cap and the first one.

“The second cap is, if you’ve got a really big house and if the cap is 400,000 and your house comes to 450,000, that calculator is saying you’re not being given any more than 400,000.

“Also, in relation to the square foot cap, even thought that might be a true cost in relation to what someone in an office in Dublin is saying, you need to find a contractor prepared to work at that budget.

So, while it might be 100% for the government, it’s not going to be 100% for you if you can’t find a contractor.

“This is where the devil in the detail comes into play. Everyone is focused on this 400,000 but what is every bit as important is the square foot rate and if it’s going to reflect on what the market says you can build for.

“The government is looking to reduce the rate again on what we have given them, which makes a difference in their figure and that of contractors even more and this is the challenge,” he said.

Michael said they have engaged with the Housing Agency and have given numbers and arrived at a place that would work, but that obstacles remain.