Social housing


A POSITIVE gloss has been put on an announcement that the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) will provide some 2,000 houses and apartments to local authorities for social housing purposes. The outcome will please those fortunate people who stand to benefit from the decision.

But surely Nama, as the largest property holder/developer in the State, would have been required to release these completed dwellings in any event? The Planning Act requires builders to set aside 20 per cent of an estate for social purposes.

During the years of the building bubble, many local authorities accepted cash in lieu of the required percentage of apartments and houses in up-market developments.

Now that the Government has announced it does not have the funds to either buy or build local authority housing, the only way a waiting list that exceeds the 100,000 mark can be partially addressed is through Nama. It is hardly coincidental that the number of properties being made available to councils will amount to roughly 20 per cent of Nama’s current residential portfolio.

Needy families that cannot afford private rented accommodation and have been waiting for years for a local authority house or apartment will not, however, look a gift horse in the mouth. Persistent failure to provide adequate social housing was a negative aspect of the bubble years.

As house prices soared, so did the number of people on local authority waiting lists. The figure is now at a record level and, despite a massive oversupply of private accommodation, there is little chance the number will fall significantly soon.

The precise location of the properties to be made available is unclear, although their spread reflects pent-up demand in the Dublin and Cork regions. Nama is keen to ensure there is a “social mix” of no more than 20 percent of local authority tenants in any housing development or apartment block in less well-off areas.

That probably reflects another initiative under which private buyers are being offered mortgages by Nama to purchase its homes.

If councils find the offered properties to be unsuitable, because of their location or local demand, others will be made available. In view of the different requirements facing Nama and local authorities, that appears to be a reasonable compromise.