Nama to fast-track house purchases

Wed, Aug 1, 2012, 01:00

Nama has established a new company to fast-track the acquisition of almost 2,500 vacant properties for social housing by the end of next year.

Fewer than 60 social houses have been made available through Nama since the agency was established to acquire development and land loans three years ago.

A list of 2,000 properties which would have been suitable for housing was eventually drawn up last December.

However, when the agency went to acquire the properties from its debtors, 40 per cent were no longer available.

It had taken so long to establish the list of houses and apartments that many had already been sold, or let or had been put out of reach by various legal processes, while others were deemed to be no longer suitable for use by local authorities.

A new specially established company, Nama Asset Residential Property Services Ltd, has been incorporated to acquire properties.

This company, which is known as a special purpose vehicle, will take possession of debtor properties it deems suitable.

The acquisition of properties will allow the debtor to reduce what it owes on its Nama loan. The company then leases the property directly to the local authority or housing association.

Just under 200 properties will be acquired by the company by the end of this year. Of these, 124 are in the greater Dublin area and 75 are in Cork.

A further 2,200 approximately have been identified and will gradually become available through the company once demand has been established with other local authorities or housing associations. Some of these may also become available before the end of the year.

Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan said she endorsed the establishment of the special purpose vehicle company because of the “disappointing” progress of the previous system.

“In recent months, Minister Hogan and I have been involved in substantial discussion with Nama and I welcome the establishment of a special purpose vehicle. I believe that this model will streamline the delivery of social units. “I expect that by the end of 2013 the majority of social units will be delivered.”

The delay in drawing up the list was caused by the previous process used for acquiring the properties, said a spokesman for the Department of the Environment. Much of the delay can be attributed to the complex financial arrangements used to fund the acquisition of properties.

Under the process, set up under agreement between the Department of the Environment and Nama, properties belonging to Nama debtors were selected by the agency as potentially suitable for social housing.

These properties were then presented to local authorities or voluntary housing associations for consideration.

The local authorities or housing association decided which properties they wanted for their tenants and returned to Nama with their wish-lists.

Because Nama owns the banking debts of properties, rather than the properties themselves, the agency was not to sell or lease a house to the housing authority but was to act as a “facilitator” in contract negotiations between the authority/association and its debtor.

The contractual arrangement was, in most cases, to take the form of a long-term lease.

The properties would remain in the ownership of the original borrowers or receivers if they had been appointed.

The housing authority would lease the house or apartment and the debtor would pay down their debt to Nama using that money.

It was planned that the majority of the 2,000 properties would be provided through this type of lease arrangement.

However there was also an option for housing authorities to buy the properties, usually using a loan from the Housing Finance Agency.

Again, the purchase money would be used by the debtor to pay back their Nama loan.

Establishing the suitability of properties and entering lease negotiations or sourcing purchase loans took several months, with the result that properties became unavailable or deals collapsed.

The new system aims to strip away these layers of complexity.

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