Owners of thousands of apartments where repairs on historic defects are under way are to be covered by a Government-funding scheme set to go to Cabinet later this month.
Before Christmas, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he intended to offer 100 per cent redress to fund repairs to defective homes in a scheme that could cost up to €2.5 billion.
There had been a fear that owners who had already invested in repairs would not be paid back retrospectively under the scheme, or that in-progress works would be suspended if it was unclear whether they would be covered, becoming “zombie” apartment blocks.
However, Government sources said that the issue of “retrospection” will be provided for in the scheme. A Government source said there was “firm recognition” that Mr O’Brien does not want those carrying out work currently or about to embark on work to be at any disadvantage.
It is estimated that up to 100,000 apartments may have a defect and up to 40,000 may be affected on the retrospection issue, based on figures estimated in a working group report on the issue published last year.
“Provision will be made to bring them into scope also,” a source with knowledge of the current status of the plan said. It is understood that while there have not been formal discussions between the Department of Housing and the Department of Public Expenditure, the matter has been discussed with the leaders of the Coalition parties, who are said to be, in the words of one source, “of a like mind”.
Speaking in the Dáil last July, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Labour leader Ivana Bacik that he agreed with the principle of not disadvantaging apartment owners who have paid or are paying levies. “Some of the blocks I am familiar with in my constituency where people have paid or are paying levies and others have not paid or cannot pay.” He said it would be unfair if those who have made a contribution already did not get any State support.
The issue of retrospection, alongside interim measures such as grants to pay for fire marshalls or other mitigating steps in apartments where defects are discovered, were identified as key components of any schemes.
Sources involved in the campaign for remediation expressed cautious optimism that both issues would be addressed, but stressed that final judgement would be reserved on the scheme before it was published.
While any scheme would be subject to Cabinet approval, Mr O’Brien told The Irish Times that he wanted the State to fund the works. Asked if he expects to be able to offer 100 per cent redress to people affected by defective Celtic Tiger builds, he said: “That’s my intention... I want us to help people to fix their apartments and homes and make them safe, and this Government is committed to helping there.
“The average cost [per apartment], as far as we can estimate, is about €25,000 per unit. Some are a lot more, some are less. There’s a range of cost, from about €1.56 billion to €2.5 billion, to be able to rectify the 100,000 or so homes that require remediation.”