Wednesday 17 January 2018

Nama cannot solve Ireland's housing crisis, says Noonan

Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Steve Humphreys
Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Steve Humphreys
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Nama is not the appropriate body to end Ireland's housing crisis, according to Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

He said he could not direct the State's bad bank to make property available for homeless accommodation because the agency had an independent commercial mandate.

Mr Noonan added that local authorities were best placed to determine if there were Nama buildings that could be used to address housing shortfalls, but sales or leases of such properties must be at market value. This cost would then be borne by the State.

In a letter to activists who occupied the Apollo House building in Dublin earlier this year, Mr Noonan insisted the Government was working to provide more homes. However, he stressed that Nama was not the appropriate body to boost housing supply.

Responding to a letter from Home Sweet Home, the organisation behind the Apollo House occupation, Mr Noonan said it was important to recognise the separate roles of Nama and the Government.

Correspondence released under Freedom of Information shows the charity lobbied Mr Noonan to ask Nama to investigate what assets under the agency's control could be used to end homelessness.

"It was not set up as, nor was it ever intended to be, a panacea for either social or private housing provision," Mr Noonan replied.

"Although Nama is not the appropriate vehicle to resolve homelessness, I assure you that this government is acutely aware of the need to tackle this pressing issue. The reality is that addressing homelessness and social housing provision requires the best use of limited Government resources."

Mr Noonan said Nama could not provide subsidies or discounts for the social use of assets and questioned if there were purchasers prepared to pay market value for a property and convert it for social use.

However, he conceded that Nama could play some role in addressing the country's housing crisis without giving away property that belongs to its borrowers.

"Nama continuously reviews the assets of every Nama debtor to establish if properties securing their loans could be utilised for residential development or social housing and with the co-operation of its debtors is willing to make such opportunities available to local authorities and approved housing bodies.

"It is local authorities, through their consultation process with Nama, who are best placed to determine which properties best suit their housing needs," he said.

Sunday Independent

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