British housing associations may buy ghost estates...
HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS in Britain are considering buying ghost estates in Ireland after meeting former minister for housing Michael Finneran last month before he left office.
Mr Finneran travelled to Britain with representatives of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency in a bid to get them involved in his social housing leasing initiative.
The initiative was introduced by Mr Finneran in 2009 as a solution to the lack of funds available to local authorities to build social housing. But take-up by Irish organisations has been slow.
Under the scheme, British associations would buy ghost estates in Ireland from developers or from Nama and they would rent the properties out to provide social housing in Ireland for the estimated 130,000 households on waiting lists.
In return, local authorities would pay the associations 92 per cent of market rent for the property and they would also receive a rent from the tenant.
Historically, local authorities received a 100 per cent capital grant from the Department of the Environment to build social housing.
In a statement, the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency said Ireland did not have the capital funding to provide social housing.
“We now need to encourage investment in the provision of social housing,” a spokeswoman said.
British housing associations would have the scope to raise finance and Ireland could offer them an opportunity to expand their stock.
She also said one major housing association in Britain was considering investing in Ireland. “Their intention would be to partner with an Irish housing association who would manage the housing,” she said.
There were also inquiries from investors in Britain and elsewhere.
Among the companies that met Mr Finneran was Places for People, one of the largest property management, development and regeneration businesses in Britain. It confirmed it had been in discussions as part of investigations into “new business opportunities and markets”, but said it did not wish to comment further.
John Rogers, head of property with Irish housing charity Respond!, said they had been striving to engage with Mr Finneran since he announced the leasing initiative in 2009.
A report prepared for the outgoing government found that almost 350 unfinished estates were in need of urgent work to ensure the safety of residents and the public. Some 52 of these estates were in the Cork County Council area, 34 were in Cavan and 23 in Donegal.
Report by FIONA GARTLAND - Irish Times