herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

€8.5m bill for council land lying empty

TAXPAYERS have shelled out over €8.5m in loan interest charges for three sites which will not now be developed.

The land has been bought by Dublin City Council since 1999 with the intention of building social and affordable housing schemes.

But the council admits that, for the "foreseeable future", it is not likely to develop the sites.

In the meantime, interest has had to be paid on the loans used to purchase the green field tracts. As of December 31 last, the total value of the loans was €30,959,643.

Assistant city manager Michael Stubbs said, given the "current state of the housing market" and the lack of "capital funding", it is anticipated the lands will not be developed.

The council is now seeking to transfer the holdings to the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency (HSC) -- a new State body which has been dubbed 'the Nama for local authorities'.

All the money used for the purchases was borrowed from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA).

The sites in question are the Oblate (4.25 acres) and Deering (3.37 acres) lands in Belcamp and the Ayrfield lands (32 acres) on the Malahide Road, all of which are in North Dublin.



DISPOSE

Until recently, when land was purchased with a HFA loan, the Department of the Environment funded the cost of the development, land costs and a maximum of seven years' interest charges.

If the loan was still in place at the end of seven years, department approval was required to extend the loan term.

However, in revisedfunding arrangements, no extensions for HFA loans maturing after 2010 are now permitted.

In addition, the department set up the Land Aggregation Scheme allowing a local authority to apply for funding to repay HFA loans and transfer ownership of the sites to the HSC.

Mr Stubbs said: "It is recommended that the council dispose of these three sites to the new state housing agency HSC for the nominal amount of €1 and then to apply to the (Department of the Environment) to pay off the full capital and loan costs attached to each of the three parcels of land."

Councillors will now have to give their approval for the transfer of the sites to the HSC.

comurphy@herald.ie

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