Monday 19 September 2011

Hogan criticises Nama over housing

MINISTER FOR the Environment Phil Hogan has attacked the National Asset Management Agency, saying it is more interested in getting “to a profitable position” than delivering housing to those on housing waiting lists.

Speaking before he addressed the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland in Dublin yesterday, he said he was “concerned and frustrated at the notion of Nama not delivering the social dividend”.

“We have had meetings with Nama and Minister Penrose has been very active in seeking to get greater product made available with very little success. No, I am not happy,” he said.

Addressing the conference, on housing policy, Mr Hogan also said supply for some housing outstripped demand, and for other housing demand outstripped supply.

“We want to get the balance right. Nama could be more proactive in doing something about it. It could get more proactive about moving on properties to be used for housing.”

John O’Connor, chief executive of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, said unfinished and unoccupied housing – so-called “ghost estates” – was having a negative impact on the economy.

“We need to get these houses finished and occupied. We need to manage the housing stock a lot better.”

The lack of decision-making by the private and public sector involved in housing was causing economic and social paralysis. Waiting for the bottoming out or the floor of the market was ridiculous, he said.

“Houses stopped selling four years ago. Until we start making decisions we could be waiting another four years,” he added.

Kieran Gallagher, deputy city architect with Dublin City Council, said regeneration of rundown flat complexes such as Dolphin House and St Teresa’s Gardens in Dublin – plans for which collapsed two years ago – would happen “over the next 10 to 15 years”. In the meantime, “we are looking at the refurbishment of existing buildings,” he said.

He said over the past six months he had been spending 50 per cent of his time “dealing with defects and problems” in social housing delivered by private developers under part V of the Planning Act. “These problems with building quality and compliance are only really coming to light now.”

Paul Kelly, architect with Gardiner Architects in Dublin, said the paucity of building regulations applying to “pre ’63” bedsitter accommodation – typically former family homes divided into flats before the 1963 Local Government Planning Act, meant the “most vulnerable and poorest” people were being consigned to unsafe, inadequate housing.

There were 8,000 bedsits in the greater Dublin area, he said, and about 7,000 more pre ’63 flats.

“These flats have no concern for the needs of children, no storage space, no amenity space, no waste disposal, no fire safety and in some cases not even daylight is required.

“We need to get people out of the pre ’63 accommodation, into quality accommodation, and get families back into these city houses.”

Irish Times

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