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19/04/2024

Sinn Féin Calls For Changes To Defect Concrete Block Grant Scheme

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Sinn Féin has called for changes to the Defect Concrete Block Grant Scheme to provide upfront grant payments to homeowners to commence remediation works.

The party's spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has called for the Minister for Housing to make the changes to the 'failing' scheme. Mr Doherty said that it should be changed so "that homeowners are provided upfront grant payments to commence remediation works". He noted that "homeowners have been badly let down" but they are "trying to engage with the scheme as it exists in order to rebuild their homes and lives".

In a statement, Teachta Doherty said:

"Last week I raised with both the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Housing the significant funding shortfalls homeowners are facing to commence works and the critical issue of mortgageability of these properties.

"Homeowners are being forced to take out loans from banks and credit unions to commence remediation works and are being hit with significant interest costs. It is now over six months since the banking industry sent a proposal to the department for a bridging finance product to resolve this issue with no decision made by government.

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"This is ridiculous – but it should not even be necessary. Last week I asked the Minister for Housing to change the scheme and provide upfront grant payments so that these funding shortfalls can be addressed and homeowners can begin remediation works. The Minister refused to commit to this call – this is despite the fact that the Department of Finance raised this option to his Department in November in documents I received through Freedom of Information.

"I have also raised the fact that the core issue of mortgageability has still not been resolved. Despite past promises by the government that these properties would be fully mortgageable once a home has been certified as remediated, many engineers cannot guarantee certification of properties for a number of options under the scheme.

"The Minister has his head in the sand and is refusing to resolve this outstanding issue once and for all, causing great uncertainty and stress for homeowners. A meeting of the Implementation Steering Group – which includes all stakeholders including affected homeowners was due to meet in February – was due to take place in February but was cancelled by the Department, with no meeting taking place since. These meetings are crucial and must be guaranteed to take place at least once a month to resolve this and other outstanding issues once and for all.

"I recently requested that the Finance Committee invite the banking sector, Engineers Ireland and the Department of Housing before it to discuss these critical issues. These meetings will take place in the coming weeks and Sinn Féin will not stop until homeowners have certainty that they will be able to rebuild their homes and lives."

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