The chief executive of NAMA has said the agency has limited room for manoeuvre when to comes to funding private residential housing development. 

Brendan McDonagh and representatives of NAMA are before the Public Accounts Committee today.  

"Judging by some of the public discussion on housing, I am not sure that it is widely understood that the State has limited room for manoeuvre when it comes to funding private residential development," Mr McDonagh said. 

He told the committee that if a state body is in the business of funding the delivery of private housing, it is required to operate on the same commercial basis as a market operator. 

"That means that, under State aid rules, a State body cannot fund the development of sites that are not commercially viable to develop for private housing, regardless of the scale of the supply shortfall in Ireland," he explained.  

"Nor can it subsidise residential development by means of low interest rates or other special concessions that the market would not countenance," he added.  

As a result, he said the ability of any state body, including NAMA, to fund the delivery of housing is limited to those sites which are commercially viable at any particular point in time.  

However, Mr McDonagh said the agency was focussed on delivering housing from sites under its remit. 

"We remain focused on maximising the delivery of housing from sites controlled by our debtors and receivers. I believe that the almost 8,000 units that NAMA has directly funded since 2014 represents a significant contribution to housing supply," Mr McDonagh said. 

He said the agency is now now focussed on exerting as much value as possible from it residual portfolio and also the delivery of as much housing as is commercially feasible from the loans attached to its debtor and receiver sites. 

Mr McDonagh said the agency had generated a total of €8 billion in cash in 2016 and 2017 and this was used to redeem €8.1 billion of senior Government-guaranteed debt - the last tranche of which
was paid in October 2017, some three years ahead of schedule.

The NAMA CEO also spoke candidly of the pressure he was put under by the Troika in 2011 to sell assets, telling the committee that he had "40 people in a room shouting across the table" at him.  

"I used to attend meetings every six months with the Troika with 40 people in the room, the IMF, the European Commission and the ECB," Mr McDonagh said. 

"And they would be shouting across the table at me, saying why aren't you selling more? Why aren't you generating the cash? You are too slow at generating the cash," he said. 

He also said there had been little coverage of the sales where the agency had done "spectacularly well".  

He gave an example of an asset NAMA had recently sold for €30m, which it had been offered €10m 18 months ago. 

"So we got three times the value of 18 months ago by changing our minds and saying we are not selling at that point in time," he said.