Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Topical Issue Debate
NAMA Social Housing Provision
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting my Topical Issue matter, although I did not think I would be discussing it this late in the evening. A serious housing problem has emerged in this State, particularly in the city of Dublin, in regard to providing social housing for the large number of people on the housing waiting lists. The 13 apartments at Calderwood Court, Drumcondra, were constructed seven years ago prior to the bursting of the property bubble and they have remained uninhabited since then. In that respect, they are symptomatic of the property crash. This year NAMA began a ghost estate transformation and remedial works at Calderwood Court through its residential property assets service. I understand that a number of issues only became apparent when the remedial work commenced. A new roof had to be fitted due to the extent of disrepair and water damage also had to be repaired. It was originally expected that the remedial work would be completed before the end of this year so that the units could be allocated but I have since been told that they will not be ready until quarter one of 2015.
NAMA agreed to transfer the Calderwood Court apartments, which were in liquidation, to the National Association of Building Co-operatives, NABCO, for allocation to applicants on Dublin City Council's housing list. NABCO received nominations from Dublin City Council and I understand it has interviewed and selected families who have been ready to move into their new homes for some time. A number of the families who are waiting to move in are my constituents. Their current rental leases are due to expire and they fear they may become homeless before the apartments in Calderwood Court are ready for occupation.
I welcome the establishment of the Dublin housing task force by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to fast track the provision of social housing in the city. I ask the task force to examine ways of expediting the remediation of the apartments at Calderwood Court so that the families can move into them at the earliest opportunity.
I thank Deputy Seán Kenny for raising this issue. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government works closely with NAMA, the Housing Agency, local authorities and approved housing bodies to deliver social housing. As of the end of quarter three of 2014, more than 2,000 available units identified by NAMA have been confirmed by local authorities as suitable for social housing. Of this portfolio of properties, some 926 units were contracted or committed for social housing. A further 486 properties are the subject of detailed appraisals or active negotiation by the parties concerned. The remaining 709 units are currently under consideration and require further appraisal with a view to delivering them in 2015 and 2016. An additional 507 properties have been evaluated to determine demand and suitability for social housing. Updated information on the delivery of NAMA sourced units for quarter four of 2014 is currently being finalised and will be made available on the Housing Agency's website when complete.
Significant progress has been made in respect of delivery from NAMA, which has been greatly aided by the introduction by NAMA of the National Asset Residential Property Services Limited special purpose vehicle, SPV, for delivery. Before any units can be acquired by the NAMA special purpose vehicle and made available as social housing a number of issues must be finalised. These include any completion works required, the resolution of outstanding planning, development contribution or legal issues and ensuring compliance with any requirements under the multi-unit development legislation.
In respect of the apartments at Calderwood Court, Drumcondra, the Department is working closely with NABCO, NAMA, Dublin City Council and the Housing Agency to expedite timely delivery. The units concerned have received full funding approval from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which represents a commitment to fund these units for the length of the agreement. It is important to note that the process engaged in with respect to the delivery of units at Calderwood Court involves a significant multi-unit transaction, which adds to the complexity of getting agreement from all relevant parties who must ensure that all legal and financial requirements are dealt with in full. Once all legal and financial processes have been completed, the remaining lease agreements, including the various stakeholders, which are being processed in a parallel process can be completed.
Finally, once all required processes are completed by Dublin City Council, the council will allocate the units without delay. The Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, has asked that this be carried out as quickly as possible. I am confident that these units will be allocated in 2015 and that, more generally, the significant delivery of NAMA units that has been achieved in 2014 under this process will continue into 2015.
I thank the Minister for her indication that the Minister, Deputy Kelly, will talk to NAMA about expediting this. It is the second time that something like this has happened in my constituency. Earlier in the summer there was a similar situation in Belmayne. The situations were similar in so far as the families who were selected for the accommodation were given to understand that the apartments would be ready much earlier than when they were actually completed. There is a need for Dublin City Council, NABCO, NAMA and all the agencies involved to try to co-ordinate their efforts so they will be able to give a clearer prediction to housing applicants as to when they can realistically move into the accommodation. There is nothing worse than giving somebody an optimistic forecast and then having to row back from it and tell them it will not happen until much later.
Some of the people in these situations are homeless while some are in rented accommodation for which their leases are expired. I am aware of one case where the lease is expiring because the owner wishes to get the house back for a member of his family who is returning from Australia. Such situations occur quite frequently, and there is a conflict between one person who wishes to move into the accommodation and somebody else being forced out.
There is a need for better co-ordination between NAMA, the approved housing bodies and the city council to set more realistic targets for completion and for moving people into the accommodation.
I understand the frustrations the Deputy is experiencing. I also understand the frustrations faced by the people he is trying house. It is very difficult when one is on the list and one knows there is the promise of accommodation, but it is out of one's control because so many other people must get their ducks in a row. I do not like to use that phrase but that is what must be done.
I note the Deputy's point that there must be a targeted approach to this. That is exactly what the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, is achieving. He has had great success in the few months since he took over this brief. The total targeted provision of more than 110,000 social housing units through the delivery of 35,000 new social housing units and meeting the housing needs of 75,000 households through the housing assistance payment and rental accommodation scheme will address the needs of the 90,000 on the housing waiting lists in full, with flexibility to meet future demand. With regard to the delivery of units at Calderwood Court, Drumcondra, the Minister is satisfied that all parties are committed to achieving speedy delivery of the units. He has asked that the units be allocated as soon as possible. In line with the social housing strategy, the Minister remains committed to maximising the delivery of social housing units through various mechanisms, including NAMA-sourced units.
I was on the Labour Party committee dealing with social housing and I am aware of how important it is. I accept that the issue raised by the Deputy is particularly important. We are anxious to get on with the job and the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, is extremely determined to do that. Indeed, he has already achieved progress in this area.