The Irish government has approved a repair scheme worth up to €2.5bn (£2.2bn) to address fire safety and other defects in 100,000 apartments and duplexes built during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger boom era.
Lax building inspections during the economic boom of the mid-1990s to late 2000s have left homeowners with huge repair bills in recent years, as inspections failed to prevent fires in their homes. And other defects were revealed.
Ireland’s Cabinet finally approved the scheme at a meeting this morning, and Housing Minister Darg O’Brien told reporters: “Today, I believe, is a very important step forward for homeowners who have been looking for 10/15 years. are living from. Desperation, anxiety and no hope of returning their homes to a safe and secure environment for them and their families to live in.”
Remedial work already underway, or completed, will be added to the settlement, he added.
The long-awaited scheme will come as a relief to homebuyers from the Celtic Tiger era, thousands of whom were left with repair bills that were simply unpayable, and unable to sell their homes.
Retiree Debbie Horan remembers the moment she was hit with a €18,000 (£15,700) repair bill for fire defects discovered after a fire at a neighboring property.
“We were all absolutely terrified”, she says, “just terrified.” In 2001, Debbie bought a two-bed property in the Linden apartment development in Blackrock, Co Dublin, which was built in the late 1990s.
After an inspection, the owners were told they would have to pay €15,000 (£13,100) each for remediation, rising to €18,000.
“It was for something that wasn’t our fault,” Debbie says. “One thing we didn’t know about when we bought the apartments.
“And it put a lot of people under a lot of financial pressure. We objected to it, we went to meetings, but we found out we had no choice but to pay for it, because until the fire broke out. Apartments could not be bought or sold. The problem was solved.
“There was a lot of anger.”
The news comes as a “complete relief,” she says, but “we hope they will stick to their promises, and fully reimburse people like me, who have already paid. “Retreat is very important.”
Pressure group the Construction Defects Alliance (CDA) said it “strongly welcomed” today’s decision and called it a “significant one for the tens of thousands of people living in apartments affected by fire safety defects”.
However, spokesman Pat Montague warned that “given the enormous scale of the blight problem, it will take years to remove all blighted apartments.”
Legislation now needs to be passed in the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish parliament) to implement the remedial plan, and the government admits the scheme will not start until later this year at the earliest.
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