A long-term land role for Nama

 

Madam, – It is becoming clear that the amount of property which Nama is having to take in will take many years to dispose of. It will be many years before taxpayers can expect their money back.

In these changed circumstances, it makes sense to tweak the original Nama idea. Rather than buy in property in the expectation of disposing of it quickly, it would be better to select, keep and manage it, long term.

The notion of a long-term state land holding is not new.

In the United Kingdom, the Crown Estate manages vast areas of land, urban and rural, on a long- term basis. It offers long leases and stipulates upkeep conditions. It also buys and sells. Here, if Nama were able to offer, ­ say, 99-year leases on half-finished sites at an appropriate annual rent, it might: 1. Generate income faster than leaving things idle for the upturn, 2. Restart some movement in property, 3. Facilitate proper completion strategies for the half-finished estates.

Roscommon, Mullingar, Tallaght and the Docklands cannot afford to wait 20 years for the upturn. We need to manage this land now.

To adopt some “Crown Estate model” would be a shift in focus for Nama. It would involve an acceptance that the State is going to hold a lot of land for a long time. This may be good, or bad ­ but it’s a fact. And so, in decades to come, perhaps one of the better Celtic Tiger legacies might be a property holding which could deliver revenue on a recurring basis.

This is not to say that nothing should be sold. That would be absurd. But it is now equally absurd to say that nothing should be done until the land can be got rid of.

On this new basis, the State can become a long-term property owner in London and Shanghai. That can be fine – the Chinese state is already buying up assets in Europe. As an Irish taxpayer, I find the notion of a part-share in properly-managed development land in China just fine.

Who will oversee this? Who will make the decisions? Who will decide the rents? Who will decide what to buy and what to sell? Yes, all these questions arise. But they are already there under the present strategy.

While the banks fill the shrieking headlines, being creative with the property is the long-term key to getting out of the appalling mess. As you wrote (Editorial, September 4th): fortitude is needed. – Yours, etc,

EOIN O COFAIGH FRIAI,

Haddington Way East,

Dublin 4.