Local Views: There should be a “100%” redress scheme
Opinion: Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe (Sinn Fein) writes about calls from local residents for a redress scheme.
I have been inundated with calls and emails about apartment defects from local residents lately, particularly from Ballycullen and Citywest. Fire safety defects have left hundreds, thousands of apartments unsafe, unsellable, and uninsurable.
The homeowners are not responsible for these defects. Light touch building control regulation by Government and shoddy practice in the construction industry were the cause, but no one is being held to account.
The long-awaited publication of the Report of the Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing estimates there could be up to 100,000 homes affected by building defects and that the cost of remediating these defects is as high as €2.5bn.
While that is an average of €25,000, some residents in Ballycullen tell me they have been quoted as much as €60,000 to make their homes compliant with planning and fire safety regulations.
This is the financial cost of self-certification and the resulting negligence by developers who were throwing up apartments to cash in and move on to build even more unsafe properties. The stress and anxiety put upon these families cannot be put into words.
In the midst of a housing crisis and record homelessness, what do you do when you’re told your house in unsafe?
This problem did not occur overnight nor is it a sudden revelation. I can understand the growing frustration amongst homeowners and tenants due to the delay in bringing forward an appropriate redress scheme given Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and his Government have now been in office for two and a half years.
There should be a redress scheme and it should be 100% redress.
The Housing Minister missed the boat when it came to the Budget. Even if he announces a redress scheme in January, homeowners may not be able to access such a scheme and receive funding for remediation until 2024 at the earliest due to the slow pace in bringing forward legislation and regulations and the lack of any provision for such a scheme in Budget 2023.
We saw this same slow process play out for the people of Donegal and the north west with the Enhanced Defective Concrete Block scheme.
The Government dragged their heels on that one and then made matters even worse by trying to force a concrete block levy through to pay for it. A levy that would immediately be passed on to prospective homeowners and only make buying a home even more unaffordable.
Sinn Féin support the establishment of a redress scheme for all homes impacted by Celtic Tiger era building defects as a matter of urgency. People cannot be left waiting in homes that are unsafe. That is the most basic point that we must remember during this process.
We must rapidly identify those apartments at the greatest level of fire safety and structural risk and take immediate remedial action. While that is going on, there are short-term measures that we can put in place such as fire wardens.
Any redress scheme must also be retrospective for those forced to pay for remediation of defects in advance of the opening of the scheme. Those who could afford to be proactive must not be punished for only wanting to make their properties safe to live in.
This will be a costly venture, there is two ways about it. Just like the mica that is making homes crumble like dry Weetabix in Donegal, it is an object lesson about lax regulations in construction.
But it cannot be homeowners who shoulder this burden. The blame does not fall on them but on those in the past who allowed developers a free hand when it came to building practices and self-certification.
This problem was created by a Fianna Fáil government and it must be put right by a Fianna Fáil government.