Northern Ireland property owners with assets seized by Nama, the Republic's debt agency, have been encouraged to come forward with viable investment plans to stimulate the local property market.
Nama chairman Frank Daly was in Belfast to address business leaders at an event organised by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, three years after the body, nicknamed Ireland's 'bad bank', was first set up.
Nama's debtors and receivers control 900 residential properties in Northern Ireland out of a total housing stock of over 750,000 and a number of commercial, retail and landbank interests.
Despite offering millions of pounds worth of cash for potential re-investment, Mr Daly said that few Northern Ireland debtors have come forward with ideas and that he would be particularly interested to hear about social housing and commercial office projects.
"The response to date, in terms of Northern Ireland-based projects proposed by debtors, has been somewhat disappointing," he said.
"This obviously reflects the current depressed market for property in Northern Ireland and the fact that, in most sectors, values remain below replacement costs.
"This will change as the economy recovers. We are confident we will be presented with opportunities for further investment."
Nama has already invested £141m, including £15m to finance the completion of two offices at Lanyon Place – The Soloist and Lanyon Plaza – and £9m to fund a 95-unit housing development in Millmount, Dundonald.
"We are willing to invest where we are confident we can get that investment back and more besides," said Mr Daly. "In the case of Millmount, for example, we were faced with the prospect of selling the site to the highest bidder or funding the development to create a more valuable asset.
"We are confident that the choice we have made will deliver a better commercial return.
"These projects are also generating substantial employment in local companies during the construction and fit-out phases, which is important at any time but not least in the current environment."
He added: "We certainly expect to invest in new Grade A office accommodation in Belfast, as we do in Dublin, and we certainly expect to invest in refurbishment of some existing properties.
"We are also conscious of the housing need in Northern Ireland and would welcome opportunities to invest in projects similar to that in Dundonald. "
Mr Daly said that since the agency's establishment, Nama debtors have sold £106m of property in Northern Ireland. Around £3.4bn was lent into Northern Ireland by Nama banks.
Nama was established in 2009 to acquire certain loans from the balance sheets of five financial institutions – Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks, Anglo Irish Bank, EBS and Irish Nationwide.
Since its establishment, Nama debtors have sold £106m of property in Northern Ireland. Irish taxpayers have been held liable for £54bn to date from the property speculation during the last decade. Some 80% of Nama's £8bn of completed asset sales has been in GB, mainly in London.
Nama's debtor enterprises directly employ over 2,000 people in Northern Ireland.