Social housing to get boost from Nama


ABOUT 3,800 properties have been identified as suitable for social housing by the new Nama company set up two months ago to fast-track the provision of homes.

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

Last December a list of 2,000 properties that would have been suitable for housing was drawn up. However, when the agency went to acquire the vacant properties, 40 per cent were no longer available or were unsuitable.

A new specially established company, Nama Asset Residential Property Services Ltd, was incorporated last July to acquire from Nama debtors vacant properties it deemed suitable. When a property is acquired, the debtor will be allowed to reduce what it owes on its Nama loan. The company then leases the property to the local authority or housing association.

Nama’s senior asset manager Felix McKenna said about 3,800 properties with potential for social housing use had been identified, and local authorities had so far indicated a demand for about 1,550 of these units while voluntary housing associations had also reported strong demand.

“Active transactions are being progressed for approximately 500 units of which 133 are now operational,” he said.

Mr McKenna was speaking at an Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) seminar in Athlone yesterday. He said Nama has an interest in about 13,000 completed residential units around the country.

ICSH executive director Donal McManus said while Nama had identified properties as being suitable, it was important that the Government ensured that banks and others made finance available for voluntary social housing projects.

Separately an Irish Planning Institute (IPI) conference in Dublin heard that future retail developments must be concentrated in town centres and not out-of-town shopping complexes.

Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan said remote retail parks had “sucked the life blood out of town centres”. The recently published Retail Planning Guidelines 2012 were designed to refocus development on city, town and village centres, she said. “There has been a proliferation of retailing in some locations where there has been poor demand, poor alignment with existing transport links and adverse impacts on the vitality of nearby city and town centres.”

The guidelines also specifically exclude developers from proposing Local Area Plans for the growth of a particular area. In future these plans would be “plan- and not developer-led,” she said.

IPI president Joanna Kelly said the “vagueness” of previous planning guidelines meant they were not always consistently applied.

The new guidelines should bring more certainty to the planning system and ensure the town centre is “first and foremost” where new retail developments should be located. There must be a particular effort to utilise existing vacant town centre space, she said. “The days of permitting retail parks off major interchanges must now be behind us.”