Wednesday 18 January 2017

Coveney housing plan questioned

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

Housing Minister Simon Coveney’s ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ plan faces a potential obstacle following a complaint to the European Commission by developers. Photo: Collins
Housing Minister Simon Coveney’s ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ plan faces a potential obstacle following a complaint to the European Commission by developers. Photo: Collins
Developer Michael O’Flynn
Developer Paddy McKillen
Developer Pat Crean

Housing Minister Simon Coveney received an unwelcome reminder of a potential obstacle to Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's ambitious plan to deliver 25,000 new homes annually by the year 2020 while presiding over the recent launch at Dublin's Green Isle Hotel of 'Pillar 3' of the scheme.

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Having listened to presentations from Cairn Homes ceo Michael Stanley, Ballymore's John Mulryan and others on measures to accelerate the delivery of housing, the Minister was confronted with the issue of the state aid complaint developers Michael O'Flynn, Paddy McKillen, David Daly, Pat Crean and Brian McKeown, submitted to the European Commission last December in relation to Nama.

In their complaint, the developers asserted that Nama had gone beyond the original remit for which it had been given the Commission's approval, and was now giving Nama-supported developers a significant financial advantage over non-Nama developers through the provision of loans at preferential rates.

The Sunday Independent understands O'Flynn raised the matter of the complaint with the Housing Minister in the course of the Q&A session at the 'Rebuilding Ireland' launch. Commenting on references made by Coveney and by Nama's Head of Residential Delivery John Collison to the "key role" Nama would play in resolving the housing crisis, O'Flynn pointed to the unresolved state aid complaint against the agency, describing it as the "elephant in the room".

O'Flynn is understood to have accused Nama and Department of Finance of purposely delaying their responses to the European Commission. This, he argued, had delayed the Commission's decision, leaving Nama in a dominant position which stymied the participation of non-Nama supported developers in the housing market.

Asked for comment, a spokesman for Housing Minister Simon Coveney said: "The Minister is aware of the State Aid case and as this is the subject of legal proceedings he is not a position to comment further". While the Sunday Independent pointed out to the spokesman that the issue was not the subject of any legal proceedings, merely the subject of a complaint, no further comment was forthcoming.

Both Nama and the Department of Finance have consistently maintained they are co-operating fully with the European Commission's investigation of the state aid complaint.

Sunday Independent

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