Ministers to lever Nama on housing

Ministers stung by accusations that they are not doing enough to deal with the housing crisis are poised to force Nama to help provide new homes.

The cabinet committee on social affairs has discussed moves which may be included in next month’s budget to deal with the issue.

With 1,500 children living in emergency accommodation due to the homelessness situation, the Government has been accused of dragging its feat on the issue.

To highlight the problem, Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger was among those occupying a house in a Nama-funded estate in Dublin in protest at it being sold to private buyers rather than being used to deal help local homeless families.

The cabinet sub-committee, which included the Taoiseach, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Environment Minister Alan Kelly heard that despite planning permission for 21,000 homes in Dublin, very little building is taking place.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan

Ministers are considering pushing-up construction levels by slashing council fees on building firms in areas of high demand, with local authorities being compensated by the state.

Nama is to be harnessed to increase house building by taking responsibility for greater supply of low-cost housing units. The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund may also be used to provide loans for developers after complaints from builders that they are finding it hard to access loans.

With the Government under increasing pressure to do something about soaring rents in the private sector, ministers discussed how to limit rises. Among measures discussed was following western European rent control models which limit increases to inflation.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly
Environment Minister Alan Kelly

The Government is unlikely to give-in to opposition demands to raise the rent supplement cap as ministers think it would lead to landlords increasing rents in line with the new limits.

This ‘rent certainty’ model is used in many European countries, and typically limits increases within a certain percentage limit of inflation. At the protest in Dublin, Ms Coppinger said the new dwelling should be used for social housing needs, not to generate profit.

“We took this action to come onto this site to highlight the scandal that state-owned Nama is building these 156 expensive homes to sell on the open market while 117 Blanchardstown families are in emergency accommodation.

“Their misery could be ended if this estate was turned over for social housing,” the TD said.

Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger
Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger

Nama said the site was owned by a debtor and some of the units were for social housing. The latest Department of the Environment figures revealed that the number of homeless families has soared 76% since the beginning of the year.

Critics have accused the Government of not living up to promises it made in the wake of the death of rough sleeper Jonathan Corrie who was found dead metres from the gates of the Leinster House last December.

The Government has committed to a major house building programme by 2020, but opposition parties say that more immediate action is needed now as the first of these dwellings will not be habitable for at least 18 months.


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