RELIEF has been expressed as Clare was officially recognised this week in the grant for homeowners with defective blocks. It is expected that Clare County Council will be in a position to accept applications online from Thursday (July 6).
After an intensive campaign of almost three years, Clare is now one of four counties where homeowners with pyrite in their blocks can apply for the government grant. The Housing Minister signed off on the regulations for the updated scheme on Monday last (July 3). The Council has said that homeowners will be able to apply online later this week, and that it has the necessary “staff and systems in place”.
The woman who spearheaded the campaign in Clare, Dr Martina Cleary, said there is relief that this county has finally been included, while certain concerns remain. “I found it very moving that Clare is now recognised and that we finally have equal rights,” she said. “This is an incredible achievement. In September three years ago, I stood at the corner of my cracked house with an engineer and was told that I was on my own and had no access to any kind of support. I spent the next two weeks awake every night worrying. Since then, Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) has had serious struggle and hardship and our homes are worse since then. There is a natural relief for all of us on achieving justice. The reality now is that we need timely access to remediation.”
Deputy Cathal Crowe described the signing of the regulations as “a good day”. “I share the frustration of homeowners at the fact this has taken so long,” he said. “I must acknowledge the role played by Martina Cleary, Mary Hanley and Geraldine Kennedy and all of the action group. They doggedly pursued the grant and they deserve huge credit. I have spoken to several homeowners since Monday. They are somewhat relieved but they also have many questions about aspects of the grant.”
APPLICATIONS for the defective blocks grant can be made online from Thursday (July 6) through Clare County Council’s website, the authority has confirmed. A spokesperson added that the authority has the necessary staff to run the grant.
It was confirmed to Councillor Ian Lynch that the Council has approached government in relation to hiring facilitators to support homeowners with applications. In County Donegal, two facilitators have been employed through local development companies, with salaries funded by the Department.
Deputy Crowe urged the prompt recruitment of facilitators here. He said the campaign for redress has now “moved beyond the political and into the technical realm”. “We need to fast-track these appointments,” he said. “There will be large numbers of people applying for the grant. They will have all kinds of questions once they begin that process.”
Dr Cleary said that despite their relief, CPAG members still have reservations about the terms and conditions of the grant, which was signed into law almost a year ago. “The headline from the Department is that homeowners could get €420,000 for remediation works, but that’s propaganda really,” she said. “Very few people will get that. We have repeatedly warned that most homeowners will be at least €50,000 short on the coast of remediation. We’ve also been calling for the banks to underwrite this shortfall because there are mortgages on these properties. To suggest that people will now be getting a massive amount of cash is utter nonsense and totally unrealistic. We don’t want the message going out to the building sector that people suddenly have a big quantity of cash. They in a terrible situation already, they don’t need to be fleeced as well. The function of CPAG might now be to source reputable builders willing to take on a number of homes.”
This week, Minister Darragh O’Brien acknowledged homeowners’ challenges. “I know the difficulties faced by affected households in financial and personal terms has been very significant these past number of years,” he said. “The improved package of measures under this considerably enhanced scheme will mark a new beginning for those who need to remediate their homes.”
In response to a query from The Champion, the Council issued a statement on the applications process.
“Clare County Council have the staff and systems in place for the administration of the Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme,” it. “The Minister announced the commencement of the Enhanced Defective Concrete Block Scheme on 3rd July 2023. With effect from 6th July 2023, applications to the scheme can be submitted online through Clare County Council’s website and supporting information on same is provided to further assist homeowners regarding the application process on our website currently.
“Homeowners are directed to the Clare County Council website, where the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage documents are available to provide information on the new scheme.
“In addition, Clare County Council’s Defective Concrete Blocks Team are willing to assist with any queries homeowners may have.
“This Team can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively by phone at 065-6846334.”