Friday 23 March 2018

'State could get rid of vultures by buying back properties'

Edmund Honohan SC, Master of the High Court (Photo: David Conachy)
Edmund Honohan SC, Master of the High Court (Photo: David Conachy)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Master of the High Court has said the State could "wave goodbye" to so-called 'vulture funds' - by purchasing their properties back at the price they paid for them.

Edmund Honohan appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness where he proposed a programme of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) of such properties as well as vacant units and those of people in mortgage arrears.

In relation to vulture funds he said: "The price they paid for these properties in the last three years is well below what they should have been paying to Nama and IBRC . . . so we pay them back all of that money and wave goodbye to them."

He said there are laws in the United States that allow for property to be taken into State ownership when it's in the public interest. He said "American vulture funds" are "used to it. They have dealt with it before. They take the good and the bad. That is how it operates."

In the case of people in mortgage arrears Mr Honohan said if the State buys their properties to use as social housing, allowing the residents stay in their homes, "we have an instant freeze on all dispossessions and evictions."

A mortgage-to-rent scheme would be put in place for those residents.

He said there is a "window of opportunity" to argue in court that there is a crisis in housing and that CPOs are necessary to solve it. Mr Honohan said the "nitty-gritty" of how it would work would be left to the Oireachtas.

He said the State needs a "big bang" approach to provided housing quickly adding "Let's not play around with joke solutions like modular housing." Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan said that while modular homes may not be the answer, the crisis meant such urgent action was required to address the homelessness problem. Mr Honohan said modular homes are a joke solution when they cost "€243,000 per unit". He said they should cost €90,000.

TDs also heard from Patrick Sweetman from the Law Society of Ireland's conveyancing committee.

He warned of a "pension time-bomb" in 40 years as a result of the increased number of people in rental accommodation rather than owning their own homes and raised concern that'd need support to continue paying rent in old age.

Irish Independent

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