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Wednesday 23 July 2014

Councils leave NAMA units idle despite housing crisis

Just 10pc of properties earmarked for social housing are taken over by local authorities

Niall O'Connor

Published 23/06/2014|02:30

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Social Housing: County-by-county guide
Social Housing: County-by-county guide

JUST over 10pc of NAMA properties flagged for social housing across the country have been taken over by local authorities, the Irish Independent has learned.

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Despite 4,653 houses and apartments being identified as potential new homes, only 518 properties have been successfully transferred.

The Irish Independent today publishes a county-by-county breakdown of NAMA units that have been used to help ease the housing crisis that has gripped the country.

But in what will prove alarming for the Government, the state agency has been forced to take over 2,700 homes "off the table" because councils have refused or been too slow to take them over. Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan told the Irish Independent that she has now intervened to determine whether some of these properties can be salvaged in a bid to diffuse the escalating problem of homelessness.

Tiny

Figures supplied to Labour TD for Dublin South East Kevin Humphreys reveal that 15 local authorities have delivered zero NAMA properties despite them being made available by agency officials.

Many more councils have delivered just a tiny fraction of the houses and apartments flagged as potential new homes by NAMA. "It's clear that this scheme is moving at an awfully slow pace at a time when all local authorities are dealing with serious housing problems," Mr Humphreys said.

The fact that thousands of properties are not being taken over by councils which have large housing lists will prove worrying for the government.

Ms O'Sullivan announced in August that a new company was being set up by NAMA to fast-track the provision of 2,000 homes for social housing.

NAMA says it has identified 4,653 properties so far, but just 516 have been completed and turned into new homes for social housing tenants.

A further 166 have been flagged for transfer and are undergoing completion works. Of these 684 units, 471 are apartments and the remaining 213 are houses.

From a national perspective, local authorities have confirmed interest in 1,849 properties and negotiations on these are continuing.

But significantly, some 2,702 properties have been taken off the table by NAMA and are classed as being no longer available.

Of these, 1,611 were turned down by local authorities because they were deemed unsuitable or there was no demand.

A further 1,091 were let out or sold by NAMA before a response was received.

Government sources are adamant that councils are "not playing ball" when it comes to taking over these homes.

"Here we have thousands of homes earmarked by NAMA that could ease this housing crisis.

"It's not acceptable that this process is moving at such a lacklustre pace," said a cabinet minister.

Figures supplied to Mr Humphreys from the Department of the Environment show that transfers had not taken place in 15 local authorities up until the end of March.

These include Donegal, Wicklow, Mayo, Galway County, Laois, Longford and Leitrim. Roscommon County Council has expressed no interest in 91 properties flagged by NAMA, according to figures seen by the Irish Independent.

In Louth, all 27 of the NAMA-identified properties have been provided as new homes.

Galway City Council has expressed an interest in all 152 of the homes identified, 60 of which have been delivered.

In the capital, all four local authorities have expressed a keen interest in NAMA properties, but hundreds have not been delivered.

The onus for determining the suitability of units for social housing purposes rests with the local authorities and the Housing Agency.

In 2012, Nama set up a special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) known as the National Asset Residential Property Services Ltd to acquire units from its debtors and Receivers and to make them available to approved housing bodies by way of a long-term lease.

In some cases, local authorities turn down offers because the homes are in areas where there is not enough demand.

But in a statement, Ms O'Sullivan confirmed she has intervened in a bid to determine those properties that have been taken off the table can be re-examined.

"I expect some 500 units NAMA units will become available for social housing this year bringing the total delivered by end 2014 to approximately 1100," according to Ms O'Sullivan.

"There are valid reasons that a local authority may not deem some units as suitable, issues such as location, social housing demand in an area and tenure mix.

"However, I want to see the maximum possible use of NAMA units. My department is working with local authorities in re-examining the potential of units not previously taken up. An innovative approach could unlock the potential of some of these developments and I am very supportive of moves in that regard," she added.

Irish Independent

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