Donegal County Council’s housing purchase policy may be reviewed after five mica-affected homes were bought in Buncrana.
Five houses in An Crannla estate in Buncrana tested positive for mica after cracking emerged following their purchase earlier this year.
Before the homes were bought by Donegal County Council, initial tests showed no signs of problematic mica.
The case has brought future purchases into question due to the unpredictability of mica, according to Donegal County Council’s Director of Housing Joe Peoples.
Mr Peoples has said that the council has to think very carefully about acquiring properties in the future following this experience.
“The safest principle here is to not buy any houses at all in the current circumstances because there is an element of risk and there would have been a perception of houses in particular parts of the county but we finding the reality it is could be anywhere in the county ,” Mr Peoples told today’s council meeting.
Councillors are hearing legal advice in committee this afternoon regarding the purchase of the five houses in Buncrana. They are also hearing legal opinion in relation to the Council putting protocols in place to ensure that the Council do not purchase any products from quarries that are known to have defective materials.
A debate prior to the session with the County Solicitor revealed that an early report on the houses described probable free mica, which influenced the council’s decision to buy the homes for €640,000.
“There is nearly always mica in some shape of form present, the strength of the report suggested that it would not be problematic,” said Mr Peoples.
A 10 year lease on the houses was coming to an end in December 2020. Cllr Rena Donaghey told the council that there were no public or private houses available for the tenants at this time, while hotels were also closed.
The initial report on the homes described the blocks being sound, to which Mr Peoples said: “Clearly now there needs to be some learning in terms of what that means in practice going forward.”
Mr Peoples said a policy on housing acquisition could deal with future issues.
“It is something that is concerning. We did have due diligence in relation to these houses. We had the test results back and we moved forward on the basis of the results but clearly now an unexpected issue has emerged.”
Councillors voted 33 to one for legal advice to be heard in committee today. Independent Cllr Frank McBrearty was the only councillor to object to matters being discussed in private.