NAMA should be "centre stage" in solving housing crisis - Ryan

Eamon Ryan said the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 was “very conservatively written by Alan Kelly” and could potentially be challenged in the Supreme Court

NAMA should be "centre stage" in solving housing crisis - Ryan

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan, 24/09/2016. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The leader of the Green Party has called for NAMA to be “put centre stage” in order to help solve Ireland’s homelessness and housing crisis.

Speaking during a march on the Department of the Environment organised by the occupiers of Apollo House, Eamon Ryan said it was recognised from the outset that NAMA would be required to “support sustainable social planning.”

“In this city that means more housing and more ambition in terms of how we use the land banks and the buildings we have,” he said. “So I think the people who were engaged in the Apollo House action did us all a favour in raising the level of ambition and imagination as to what is possible.”

This afternoon a letter signed by nearly 5,000 people was delivered to the Finance Minister by the ‘Home Sweet Home’ activists.

The letter calls for Minster Noonan to compel NAMA to use vacant properties to house the homeless.

The open letter - which is available to read and sign here - calls on the Finance Minister to direct NAMA ‘to make proper and adequate housing stock immediately available' to local authorities.

Mr Ryan said the Apollo House occupation has raised the “level of ambition and imagination as to what could and should be done” to ease Ireland’s housing crisis.

“Included in that is taking NAMA properties and NAMA land banks and using them in a really more constructive and ambitious way,” he said.

“Absolutely NAMA should be put centre stage in terms of solving the housing problem we have and using the land banks that they have access to.”

Mr Ryan said he believes the Apollo House occupiers should vacate the building as required on January 11th and use the “real encouragement and support people have got here to make sure we don’t leave anyone homeless in this city.”

“If we need to further amend the NAMA legislation we can do it but I know from the very start and in its original wording it deliberately recognised that we needed to get planning gain from the access and control NAMA would have,” he said. “They need to use that now.”

Vacant Sites Register

The Green Party is currently preparing legislation aiming to deal with derelict and vacant sites in Ireland when the Dáil resumes in January.

Mr Ryan said the publication of a blank Vacant Sites Register by both Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council shows a “real problem with the legislation.”

New laws requiring planning authorities to establish a Vacant Sites Register came into effect from 1st January.

Both councils have said they intend to populate the lists as soon as landowners are notified that their sites are liable for the levy.

Under the legislation, property owners will then have 28 days to make a submission regarding the inclusion of the site on the register.

“What you see this morning is just conservatism at large, where they publish a register of sites in the city without a single site included - that needs to stop,” said Mr Ryan.

“We need to be far more ambitious; far stronger with developers otherwise we are still going to have a housing problem.”

The Green Party is also calling for sites under the threshold of 500 square metres to be included on the register and for derelict buildings like Apollo House to be factored in.

“We need to ensure that every small vacant site is included, we need to up the levies, up the charges so that developers are really forced to not just sit on the vacant sites,” said Mr Ryan.

He said the constitution recognises, “the need of the common good to be served and as I said property having its obligations as well as its rights and unfortunately our councils and our Department of the Environment doesn’t seem to ever want to push that and test that.”

Under the legislation the vacant sites levy - set at 3% of the market value of a site - will not be due for payment until January 2019 - a delay Mr Ryan said could be challenged in the Supreme Court.

"The constitution is quite strong and yes it recognises property rights but it also recognises the need of the common good to be served," he said.

“I think it is time we tested that, I think that was what Apollo House was doing, testing the law in that regard and I think our constitution and our courts, if we really put it to them, would recognise that Article 43 does have that social common good aspect."