Ireland set for zombie housing market - Bruton


RESEARCH REVEALING the extent of vacant properties in the State suggests Ireland will have a “zombie” housing market for years to come, Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton said yesterday.

The UCD research found there were 345,000 vacant houses and apartments across the country. Mr Bruton also claimed the intervention in the housing market by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) would keep prices inflated and prolong the recession.

“The report’s findings indicate that Ireland faces the prospect of a zombie housing market for years to come. It also raises further concerns about Brian Lenihan’s ill-advised Nama project,” he said. “There is a strong risk that Nama will only prolong the recession by intervening in the housing market, keeping prices inflated, and squatting on vacant properties.”

Mr Bruton described the “sheer scale” of housing surplus outlined in the UCD research as a “monument to Fianna Fáil’s dismal economic legacy”.

Labour spokesman on housing Ciaran Lynch called on Minister of State for Housing Michael Finneran to order a comprehensive audit of surplus housing stock, and expressed concern on Nama’s impact. “We need to examine how the homes could be best used, and how we can match the massive oversupply of houses and apartments with the acute housing needs of many people,” he said.

A national register of house prices should be established to give buyers access to accurate information, he added. “I would also be very concerned that the ‘Namafication’ process currently under way is likely to exacerbate the problem, and it would see that vendors are very reluctant to drop asking prices to realistic levels.”

He said the report’s finding that 345,000 homes were vacant represented “a nasty hangover from the boom years when tracts of land were being rezoned hand over fist”.

Mr Finneran yesterday conceded some partially built houses may need to be knocked down, but said he planned to fill 4,500 vacant units this year. He said he had responsibility to rehouse 56,000 people on social housing lists.

The Minister insisted Nama would not be paying prices for loans based on recent “bubble” property prices. “It is not appropriate to say Nama will distort the market . . . There are many developers with finished estates out there who haven’t sold their houses. We have housing lists and if we can match our demand with their supply then I think it’s a good way of doing it,” Mr Finneran told RTÉ Radio One’s News at One.

Meanwhile, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) continued to insist developers had built to existing demand. A CIF spokesman said a range of reports pertaining to vacancy rates had produced “quite an array” of figures. He called on the Department of the Environment for what he described as “definitive” research. “We need clarity. It’s too important not to have clarity,” he said.