Sunday 17 December 2017

Vandalised houses, holiday homes rejected by councils

Unsuitable properties offered for social housing by Nama

Fergus O’Dowd: disappointed. Photo: Tom Burke
Fergus O’Dowd: disappointed. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Nama offered local authorities vandalised houses, holiday homes and other highly unsuitable properties in response to a Government request to assist in easing the housing crisis.

Hundreds of emails seen by the Irish Independent reveal how a host of properties offered by Nama for social housing purposes had to be rejected.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

They included unsuitable holiday homes, units with no washing, drying or cooking facilities, unfinished homes and properties considered not habitable. In one case, the roof blew off an apartment block offered to a local authority.

But Nama has rejected criticism of the standard of properties offered, saying there was "no difficulty" in renting or selling rejected properties to the private sector.

Nama has also said hundreds of properties which had been on the table ended up being withdrawn and rented or sold to the private market due to lengthy delays by local authorities in responding to offers.

But councils have insisted they could not rush the process and that many of the homes offered were simply unsuitable.

Evidence of the poor standard of many properties offered emerged in hundreds of emails released under the Freedom of Information Act to Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who described the situation as "inexcusable".

The emails detail correspondence to and from the Housing Agency, which acted as an intermediary between Nama and the local authorities.

"A huge amount of time was wasted by Nama offering unsuitable accommodation," said Mr O'Dowd. But the TD was equally critical of the time it took local authorities to consider properties, saying some took "up to a year to reply" to offers.

Nama began offering properties in its control for social housing in 2012 amid mounting political pressure for it to become involved in tackling the growing accommodation crisis.

However, less than a third of the 6,765 housing units offered to date have been taken by councils or housing charities.

A Nama spokesman said: "In the context of the very substantial demand for social housing in the State, Nama was surprised at the length of time that some local authorities took to confirm demand or otherwise to the Housing Agency for the properties that the Nama made available."

But several local authorities blamed Nama for the delays, claiming it did not provide enough information at the initial stages of the process.

The County and City Management Association (CCMA) also said delays may have arisen due to the need for assessments, approval and matching properties with client needs.

Responding to criticism that it had offered a considerable number of "unsuitable" properties, Nama said it was up to local authorities to decide whether accommodation was appropriate or not.

Mr O'Dowd said the number of properties rejected by councils was "shameful".

He said local authorities in Dublin had turned down enough properties to house all of the 993 families currently availing of emergency accommodation in the capital.

"Whatever concerns they had about social mix, the fact is the greater good would have been served by housing families in those properties," said Mr O'Dowd. "There was a solution to the immediate crisis in their hands. I think they were shameful in their neglect of the needs of their housing applicants."

Of 2,093 housing units offered in Dublin, just 735 have been taken to date. In contrast with Dublin, Galway City Council has taken up 196 of the 203 units it was offered by Nama.

Irish Independent

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