by European Action Coalition for the Right to Housng and the City, Dublin
The National Assets Management Agency, Ireland’s ‘bad bank’, attended this year’s MIPIM conference. The agency, which has about EURO 20 bn in real estate assets, was set up following the financial crisis to save the Irish banks from their own reckless lending by buying their toxic real estate assets. Its job is now to sell those, so it can give the banks the EURO 32 bn it promised them.
As a huge player in the Dublin property market, NAMA’s main focus is on selling parts of our city to massive financial institutions with an interest in cheap real estate or cheap debt linked to real estate. Companies like Blackstone, Lonestar Capital and Oaktree Capital have already been buying assets from the bad bank. But the upcoming implementation of a Strategic Development Zone in Dublin’s Docklands is set to move things up a gear. A Strategic Development Zone is a provision in Irish planning law to designate a specific area for ‘fast-track planning’. The idea is simple; get rid of the planning appeals process. NAMA has said that ‘fast track planning’ is vital to attract international “investors” to “Ireland’s most important internationally marketable land bank”. The strategic Development Zone, moreover, has been designed to exclude the traditional inner-city working class communities and does not include any strategy around social or affordable housing.
To be clear, NAMA is an agency set up by the state but with a blatantly commercial focus largely oriented around selling our city to international financial firms. The fact such a significant and expensive public institution holding one of the largest property portfolios in the Europe has adopted such a narrow commercial remit could not be more symptomatic of the Irish state’s failure to responds to the need to develop sustainable cities and respond to the housing crisis. With a over 100,000 people on the social housing waiting lists, the same number again unable to pay their mortgages, and the number of families becoming homeless in Dublin doubling, how can selling office blocks to hedge funds be the priority? No doubt this is what NAMA was explaining to its ‘international partners’ at this year’s MIPIM.