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Compensate for defective Celtic Tiger homes, says Dáil Committee

Thursday, January 25, 2018

By Elaine Loughlin
Political Reporter

The Government should compensate people who bought Celtic Tiger homes which have been found to have significant defects, an Oireachtas committee has recommended.

A redress scheme to help homeowners, some facing bills of tens of thousands of euro to fix latent defects, should be set up by the State, according to a report published by the housing committee.

Among the 26 recommendations in the report is the creation of a new building standards and consumer protection agency along the lines of the Food Safety Authority or Environmental Protection Agency.

Developers or builders found to have breached building standards or fire safety regulations should also be banned from publicly funded construction project tenders.

Speaking at the launch of the report, which called for stricter standards around new builds, the chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, and Local Government Maria Bailey (FG) said it is “vital” that mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the “poor quality housing constructed in Ireland during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom years does not happen again”.

Speaking at the launch of the report, which called for stricter standards around new builds, the chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, and Local Government Maria Bailey (FG) said it is “vital” that mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the “poor quality housing constructed in Ireland during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom years does not happen again”.

Committee rapporteur Éoin Ó Broin (SF) said that a house often is “the single biggest purchase in a family’s life” and people should have the same level of protection as they do when buying a car or any other consumer product.

Earlier this month, 240 homeowners in the Bru Na Sionna estate in Clare were told they would have to find €2.25m to pay for fire safety and other defects in their homes or face evacuation.

Mr Ó Broin said the measures in the report would help to ensure incidents such as this, as well as at Priory Hall and Longboat Quay, are not repeated.

“For those people who through no fault of their own are living in properties with defects they should not be left to their own devices, the State has a responsibility along with others,” he said.

“Ultimately pre-2014 and the introduction of reforms, it was the regulatory regime that had been put in place by the State that in some senses allowed, or facilitated some of the bad behaviour of developers.”

Mr ÓBroin added: “We are not naive, we are not saying that this is something that can be done overnight and that there is an unlimited amount of finances for support, but it is not acceptable for the State to say this is nothing to do with us.”

The committee has suggested a levy be placed on the construction industry; homeowners be allowed write repairs costs off against tax; and that an interest-free loan scheme could be set up to address the cost of fixing defective homes.

The report also states that local authorities should not be allowed to self-certify their own social housing developments and instead this should be done through the new agency.

Mr Ó Broin said the implementation of the reforms would represent “a real turning point in our building control system”.

He said: “They would create a genuinely independent regulatory authority; break the link between developers and the inspection and certification regime; provide future home buyers and social housing tenants with greater legal protections and insurance against latent defects; and provide real support for those left living with the legacy of the failures of the past.”

“Given that this report secured the unanimous support of the Oireachtas housing committee, I hope the [Housing] Minister will listen carefully to our recommendations and act accordingly.”

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