Nama offers 4,000 homes for social housing

Conference hears numbers are too small and calls for social housing stimulus package

Nama has identified 4,000 homes which it says are suitable for social housing, half of which could be ready over the next three years. Photograph: The Irish Times

Nama has identified 4,000 homes which it says are suitable for social housing, half of which could be ready over the next three years. Photograph: The Irish Times

Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 13:41

Nama has identified more than 4,000 houses under its control which it says are suitable for social housing - 2,000 of which could be ready over the next three years.

However, the numbers have been describes as “too small” by the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH), which is holding a conference in Wexford today.

Some 250 delegates heard that while the offer of Nama houses was welcome, the numbers of suitable properties was limited compared to the demand for social housing, which it estimated was in the order of 96,000 homes.

Calling for a stimulus package to build new social houses, Donal McManus, executive director of the ICSH, said such a package would have a major impact on the job market, with every 10 jobs created in the building sector sustaining a further seven elsewhere in the economy.

Mr McManus said investing money saved from the IBRC promissory note in a major social housing construction programme could have “the double benefit of creating jobs and taking people off local authority waiting lists”.

He said measures such as sourcing properties through Nama and leasing from private owners have had only a very limited impact in addressing the housing needs of families and vulnerable groups such as older people, the homeless and people with disabilities.

Felix McKenna, senior asset manager with Nama, agreed the agency had a “finite” amount of suitable houses. He said it was inevitable there were works needed to complete some of the estates around the country and it would not be good planning to devote entire estates to social housing.

In the greater Dublin area where there may be the greatest demand, there was still “quite a quagmire” of issues such as the solvency of debtors, issues of unpaid creditors, complications of receivership and outstanding compliance with planning permissions.

He instanced a housing estate in Cobh, Co Cork, where Nama were transferring some 13 houses to a housing agency. He said with co-operation of all parties “and the very best will in the world”, the completion and transfer of the units took 13 months.

“What we have is a significant contribution, but it is finite,” he concluded.

Prof Ken Gibb, a housing economist and adviser to the Scottish Parliament, backed the call for a social housing stimulus, citing Scottish and Northern Ireland evidence that investment in social housing works.

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