Almost two-thirds of homes made available by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) for social housing were not taken up by local authorities despite more than 100,000 people being on housing waiting lists.
In what has been described as a “major own goal” at a time of a national housing emergency, Nama identified 7,094 residential units as potentially suitable for social housing up to the end of 2020.
Yet, despite the large numbers waiting for homes, new figures show that local authorities sought only 2,770 units, of which 2,614 were delivered or contracted by Nama for social housing purposes.
The remaining 4,300 units were, according to the Opposition, “lost to the private sector”. Difficulties between government departments and local authorities are being blamed for the debacle.
Figures obtained by theshow that in some counties — Limerick, Meath, and South Dublin — upwards of four out of every five, or 80%, of houses offered by Nama were not taken up for social housing.
In Limerick City and County, only 32 of 166 homes identified were taken up by the local authority, while in Meath only 39 of 236 homes identified were accepted, meaning 197 or 83% were not secured.
For Cork City, the documents show that Nama offered 470 properties with just 157 taken up, leaving 313 (66%) behind, while in Cork County a total of 849 properties were offered but just 357 were taken — 492 (57%) were unwanted.
Sources have said that, in many cases, the homes offered by Nama are actually not suitable for social housing.
Some of the reasons for rejecting the Nama homes have been a lack of transport links while some have been overly plush, said sources.
Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said bureaucratic delays at central government have meant it can take up to 18 months for a sale to proceed.
“As a result, at least 2,000 homes were lost to the private sector," said Mr Ó Broin. "It is not all the fault of the local authorities. A lot of blame lays with the departments of public expenditure and housing.
"Some offered up by Nama were not suitable, but local authorities have been very slow too to move.”
He said central government rules about an over-concentration of social housing in one development has also stymied councils’ ability to buy Nama homes.
Social Democrats housing spokesman and TD for Dublin Bay North, Cian O’Callaghan, said the under-delivery of social and affordable homes by Nama is an own-goal that Ireland cannot afford.
“There is a severe shortage of homes for people on low and average incomes," said Mr O'Callaghan. "The Government needs to direct Nama and local authorities to work together to radically improve the number of social and affordable homes delivered on sites owned by Nama.”
Under an adaptation to its original mandate, Nama facilitated the delivery of 20,000 residential units, subject to commercial viability, across the residential sites it controls.
To the end of 2020, the number of new units funded or made available by Nama was 12,450 plus 6,550 units where Nama funded planning permission, enabling works, and legal or holding costs.
In response to queries from the, Nama said it had “no role in the decisions taken” by these bodies in whether or not to use a Nama property for social housing.
Once demand for a property has been confirmed by a local authority, Nama facilitates contact and negotiation between its debtor or receiver and the local authority or an approved housing body.
Nama confirmed that the units not taken up by local authorities were sold or rented to private sector parties.