Fianna Fáil Environment spokesperson Barry Cowen has described reports that Michael Noonan is to reconstitute NAMA, into a housing development agency as an implicit acceptance that the agency’s potential has been significantly underutilised to date. Deputy Cowen described the Minister’s proposal as half-baked and too little, too late.
Earlier this month it was reported that NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh told an investor conference in Dublin that the agency had sold enough land zoned for construction of 11,000 new homes in the Dublin region but to date only 700 or so units have been built.
Deputy Cowen stated “The revelation that huge tracts of zoned land sold by NAMA are effectively lying idle as investors wait for further price rises is an indictment of the strategy the Minister has pursued to date. In 2014 Fianna Fáil warned the Minister that we should be under no illusions as to the nature of many of the purchasers of NAMA loans. Vulture funds will typically take a short term outlook on their investments. While they may be in a position to make handsome returns by flipping assets they acquire this may not be consistent with the long term economic interests of the state. It should therefore be no surprise that so little housing construction has actually taken place on former NAMA controlled land.
“I welcome any proposal that will accelerate house building in the country, particularly in areas of acute shortage. However today’s report seems to be a re-hash of previous announcements in relation to NAMA’s role which quickly turned to dust.
“What we need now is clarity from the Minister as to how this will proceed in practice.
- Does he intend to call off the sale of tracts of land owned by NAMA to vulture funds?
- Is NAMA halting the redeeming of its bonds in order to provide finance to fund these housing developments?
- How will it be ensured that the delivery of “for profit” housing will not experience the same delays that have occurred in relation to social housing. As at the end of March this year just 950 residential properties have been delivered for social housing use, despite over 5,000 properties being identified as suitable.
“The key issue in relation to housing is the provision of zoned land in suitable locations, together with the finance and expertise necessary to develop it. Until the Minister outlines how this will happen in practice his pronouncement today will amount to little more than electioneering,” concluded Deputy Cowen.