Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Public Accounts Committee

2012 Annual Report and Appropriation Accounts of the Comptroller and Auditor General
Chapter 4 - Vote Accounting
Chapter 10 - Central Government Funding of Local Authorities
Chapter 11 - Costs of Land Remediation
Vote 25 - Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government

12:40 pm

Mr. Michael Layde:

There have been difficulties in mobilising social housing for a number of reasons. There are two aspects to the issue. One is why certain units are rejected and the other is, in the case of units that are not rejected, what is the issue governing the pace at which they become available.

On the first point, we pursue a sustainable communities agenda and we try to avoid situations where there is a very high concentration of one tenure type. We wish to avoid the old model of a congregation of large numbers of social housing units, possibly in areas with inadequate services for families. There has been a process of filtration by local authorities to fit in with their own housing needs. We are revisiting that now. The Housing Agency, some local authorities and the Department are looking again at units that were previously rejected to see if we could find mixed tenure solutions that would allow some of them to be brought into service.

The situation was extremely complex at first. First, properties were not in the ownership of NAMA. The loans had transferred to NAMA but not the properties, which were still in the ownership of developers or, in some cases, receivers. As the Secretary General has said, in some cases the properties were not fully completed and issues arose in that regard. We work closely and co-operatively with NAMA. One of the actions it has taken to expedite the situation is to set up a special purpose vehicle within NAMA to which it can transfer properties.

As they are resolving individual loans with associated properties, taking ownership of the properties and moving them into this special purpose vehicle for onward leasing to local authorities, it short-circuits what otherwise is a very complex process. There are no developers or receivers involved and so on. That has led to the type of acceleration we have seen more recently, and we anticipate this will continue for the rest of this year and into next year. However, the capacity of NAMA is of course finite, and as it has a finite number of properties, it is not a longer-term solution to social housing need.