NAMA boss now hints at future development role for agency
IRELAND'S 'bad debt' agency, NAMA, could play an important future development role rather than simply being wound-up once it has cleared the €16.5bn in losses created by the Celtic Tiger property crash.
NAMA boss Frank Daly has strongly hinted that the agency has something to offer given the enormous expertise, funding sources and property skills it developed since its creation at the height of Ireland's financial crisis.
But he warned that Irish property developers will only exit NAMA when they resolve their debts.
"If developers are in NAMA and they repay their debts to NAMA then they are quite welcome to do whatever they want to do," he said.
"If they want to do house building or office building, that is fine. But the first priority has to be that they deal with any obligation to NAMA."
Mr Daly said that it made sense to look at what the agency could offer Ireland in the long term.
"If, along the way, you end up with an organisation that has assets maybe in terms of control over land or buildings; that has finance because we have generated huge amounts of finance over the past five years and that is what is enabling us to pay our debt and to fund areas such as (social) buildings."
"You (also) end up with an organisation that has developed a significant expertise - I think it is reasonable to say: 'look, what could that organisation do now?' I think that is what has happened."
Environment Minister Alan Kelly has already pressed for NAMA to play a key role in delivering extra social housing resources in Ireland amid spiralling housing waiting lists.
NAMA's role has now changed from its sole focus on debt recovery to property development including residential and commercial construction.
The agency will build 20,000 new homes over the next five years and is expanding its involvement with social housing co-operatives like NABCO.
NAMA is also accelerating its asset disposal strategy in line with improving market conditions.
"There is a review of NAMA by the minister and the Government," Mr Daly said.
"They have accepted those targets for debt repayment but they have also given us a new focus and that is to be a major player in delivering houses where needed and the other is to work out the docklands area in Dublin which has been designated a strategic development zone."
NAMA now either owns or controls more than 70pc of the vacant lots in Dublin docklands.
NAMA also holds security over 217 (17pc) of the estimated 1,258 'ghost estates' nationwide.
But the agency is also two years ahead of its debt recovery deadlines.
"By December of this year we will have repaid 50pc of our debt which is two years ahead of schedule," Mr Daly said. "We have committed to repaying 80pc of our debt by the end of 2016 and then working very hard to repay the 20pc remainder."
"The biggest social dividend of all is that we repay the debt and don't leave that hanging over the Irish people. It is a significant liability for the Irish people."
But NAMA dismissed suggestions its role in house building could trigger a second Irish property bubble. "There are enough safeguards now with the bank lending to avoid that issue of a bubble in the future," the NAMA boss said.
"I think people will be much more sensible and much more realistic with the prices they will pay for houses."