Varadkar proposes giving Nama social housing role

Plan intended to ensure a ‘strong State lever to drive delivery’ of more homes

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A State agency to accelerate house-building and “step in where the private sector has failed” has been proposed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

In a speech at the opening of the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Mr Varadkar said the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) could be repurposed to develop land.

Government sources said it will be involved in raising finance, the planning process and working with developers.

It would involve bringing “Nama’s experience and expertise to bear in the public good”. It is understood that it will be focused on affordable housing.

One source said the plan would ensure there is a very “strong State lever now to drive delivery” of homes.

The Irish Times reported last month that senior Government figures were considering the establishment of such an agency, which would act as a driver of State-funded homes.

Major intervention

Mr Varadkar signalled the major intervention in the housing market by saying the State could develop land for itself.

“There’ll be future announcements about changes to planning regulations, so we can make it more affordable to build apartments in our towns and cities, and more affordable for people to buy them,” he said.

“And also we’re examining the possibility of repurposing Nama to develop lands on behalf of the State - to step in where the private sector has failed.”

It would effectively mean Nama becoming a State-owned housing developer, which would drive house-building.

It is understood members of the Independent Alliance have also been pushing for a new national building agency.