Minister Jan O’Sullivan reports on tackling unfinished estates

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, TD, today (28 November, 2013) published the second annual progress report on tackling the issue of unfinished housing developments which points to  “even more progress in bringing to a conclusion this most distressing of circumstances left over from the doomed tiger years

Minister O’Sullivan was speaking at the launch of the report which also includes the results from the 2013 National Housing Development Survey.  The survey has been tracking the extent and condition of unfinished housing developments since 2010.  Among the key findings of this year’s survey are:

•        A decrease of 56% in the number of unfinished developments since 2010

•        72% decrease in number of vacant units in remaining unfinished developments since 2010

•        553 developments effectively resolved in past 12 months

“The 2013 National Housing Development Survey highlights the progress that has been made  since this administration came to office” she said.  In  announcing the results she paid tribute to all of the participants on the National Co-ordinating Committee on Unfinished housing Developments (NCC) “ I am particularly pleased with the progress made through our collaborative approach at NCC level and I must pay tribute to all of the contributors who have engaged meaningfully and proactively in that process”.

Of the remaining 1258 unfinished developments she indicated that her objective is to move the issue to its endgame, particularly in relation to the 992 developments with residents.“We will proceed with a multi-pronged approach” she revealed. “Resolution of the developments will in the first instance be by means of enforcement of planning conditions at local authority level and/or the release of funds from bonds”.

However in the case of some developments where these options are not available to local authorities, a €10 million allocation to the Site Resolution Fund announced in the last budget will be used to incentivise the resolution process. ”By allocating funds to complete the public infrastructure, it is hoped to make such developments attractive for developers to finish out and release units onto the open market. This measure is also designed to stimulate the construction sector which has been moribund for a number of years”

Minister O’Sullivan went on to expand upon her comments of last year when she indicated that there would remain a cohort of developments which appear to be commercially unviable due to location, build quality, commercial demand or other factors.  “We have worked with the funders of these developments who have identifiedthat around 40 developments may not be viable in any long term context and the best solution for them would be to return the sites to greenfield” she continued, “and it may be the case that further developments will in time be deemed unviable and subject to the same treatment.  The identification of these developments and their partial or full site clearance, will serve as a signal that we have tackled the residual problems  presented by the property crash” 

Minister O’Sullivan also announced the end to the Public Safety Initiative, introduced in 2011 to secure dangerous aspects of unfinished developments, where the developer could not be brought to account in the short term.” Applications for such funding has dwindled to a trickle, further indicating progress on this front. I intend to discontinue the scheme in 2014 as it has achieved its objectives.” she said.

In conclusion, the Minister signalled that work in this area is nearing its end and she hoped that the majority of the remaining key tasks would be completed in the coming year. “I would like to see as complete a resolution of these difficulties as possible, in the coming year. I hope to  report next year that the difficulties we inherited have been substantially resolved. By this Government. I assure you that I will not spare any of my energy s in making that aspiration a reality,” the Minister concluded.