Sunday 21 December 2014

Smyth calls for 25,000 new homes in Dublin

Developer proposes a 'use it or lose it' clause

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

A MODEST PROPOSAL: Noel Smyth aims at housing
A MODEST PROPOSAL: Noel Smyth aims at housing

Property tycoon Noel Smyth, the developer behind the Square in Tallaght, has called for private equity and buyout funds that acquire development acres to be strictly regulated to prevent them from hoarding land.

Smyth has presented detailed proposals to Environment Minister Alan Kelly in which proposes an innovative solution to Dublin's housing shortage.

"It would be imperative that the sites which Nama control are not offered into the market without clear and unequivocal commitments from those agreeing to purchase them.

An "opportunistic fund" which is eager to acquire further Irish assets, especially in the residential space should be encouraged to do so, but with clear terms and commitments to ensure that the sites are built out and delivered to the market in a timely fashion," according to Smyth, writing to the Sunday Independent this weekend.

"There is no point in Nama, in seeking to resolve the housing crisis, selling developed sites to "opportunistic funds" unless it can be guaranteed that these sites will be turned into much needed homes for those looking to purchase- obviously at the prevailing open market price."

Smyth suggests that 25,000 homes could be built in Dublin in the next three years if the government were to direct Nama to boost the construction industry and deal with the housing shortage in Dublin.

Smyth has proposed that the government consider a licencing system for new homes, where developers would not own the houses until they are completed.

These licences would have a time limit of up to 24 months, forcing developers to complete them within a certain time period.

Smyth has also suggested that the completed properties could be rented out for up to three years before being sold. This would give time for the banks and the market to recover more before the homes are sold.

Smyth suggests that Nama must partner with experienced developers to solve the housing shortage. "It would be difficult to see how 25,000 residential units might be built without the support and commitment by established and experienced developers/builders in what after all is a rising market," he said.

However he warned that the Nama Act has "emasculated" the State property agency from being able to ensure that assets which it controls and for which there is huge demand "can be properly developed and built out"

One of the country's best known lawyers before moving into property, Smyth has been an adviser and consultant to many high-profile business people over the years.

He was Ben Dunne's solicitor - and his sworn testimony during the Moriarty Tribunal played a part in Charlie Haughey's admission that he had received IR£1.2m from Dunne.

Smyth later became one of the country's most active property developers - before the market crashed. His €200m former British commercial property portfolio went into receivership in 2012 and was later broken up and sold on.

His Alburn Developments, which has loans in Nama, has a controlling stake in The Square shopping centre in Tallaght.

The solicitor's Fitzwilliam Finance Partners led the buyout of €140m worth of Arnotts debt by Canadian billionaire and Brown Thomas owner Galen Weston last year.

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