Belfast Telegraph

Nama in property sell-off for Belfast social housing apartments

Exclusive By Margaret Canning

The Republic's bad bank Nama has authorised the sale for social housing of apartments in Belfast city centre marketed in the boom as the epitome of desirable apartment dwelling.

Nama, set up to cleanse the Irish banking system of toxic loans on property – some £3bn of which relate to Northern Ireland – this week confirmed three major sell-offs of properties on its books to housing associations.

On a visit to Belfast this summer, Nama chairman Frank Daly said it had approved £87m in asset sales in Northern Ireland over the last four years and would also contribute to social housing where "commercially feasible".

This week a spokesman for Nama said it had sold 31 apartments at College Court Central in King Street in Belfast – a development which prompted overnight queues at estate agents when marketed off-plan at the peak of the boom – and 20 at Throne View in Newtownabbey, both to Oaklee Housing Association for undisclosed sums.

And it also revealed the sale of land in Newcastle to Apex, formerly known as North West Housing Association.

Last year it said it had given Clanmil Housing Association the option to buy land at the Hilden Mill site near Lisburn.

A spokesman for Oaklee said: "Oaklee Homes Group Ltd recently completed the purchase of two portfolios of apartments in Belfast, and welcomed the engagement of Nama in facilitating these acquisitions which will contribute to meeting social housing need in the Belfast area.

"We look forward to building on our positive relationship with Nama with a view to exploring opportunities for future projects which address social housing need throughout Northern Ireland," he said.

College Court Central and Throne View were built by Fernhill Properties and Fernheath Developments respectively – though no one from the businesses, which are connected, was available for comment yesterday.

A repossessed two-bed in Throne View recently sold for just under £50,000, while it's understood two-bed apartments in College Central would fetch around £90,000.

Pat Turley, an estate agent at Ulster Property Sales, said there was a high supply of apartments in Belfast, making them difficult to sell.

"The return for investors is flat because of things like high rates and service charges," he said.

A spokesman for Apex said that Nama had an "important role" in delivering social housing in Northern Ireland.

"In 2011, Apex acquired a significant Nama site in Newcastle where we have now built 150 social homes in an area that has been starved of such provision for over 20 years due to the high land prices that the area once commanded.

"We have carried out feasibility work on other Nama lands and anticipate doing more business in the future provided the market values set by their selling agents are realistic."

A spokeswoman for the Department Social Development said it "welcomes the sale of Nama properties to housing associations, which can be used to address housing need".

Belfast Telegraph