Unfinished Laois housing estate now at mercy of vulture fund company

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Unfinished Laois housing estate now at mercy of vulture fund company

Housing in Grace Avenue, Gracefield Manor in Ballylinan

An incomplete housing estate on the Laois Kildare border continues to be the victim of the property crash, with the bond currently held by a vulture fund.

Gracefield Manor in Ballylinan cannot be taken in charge by Laois County Council until works like roadsurfacing are completed, but it remains a long wait for residents.

The estate was designed to have 133 houses, two creches and an office building, with phase one to be built by 2008.

Only about 50 houses got built, in Grace Avenue and in Russell Close, along with the office unit that is largely empty.

Residents are still waiting for the estate infrastructure to be fully finished so it can be taken in charge by Laois County Council, who will then maintain lighting, services, roads and paths.

Resident David Masterson Power described the issues to the Leinster Express.

“It is essentially an unfinished estate, it is fenced off at the back but you get young lads jumping that or people forcing the gate open. The roads need a second layer of tarmac and a number of pedestrian crossings. The grass isn’t cut, I did it myself for a few years and then my wife started collecting money from residents and got a guy to do it. The manholes are sitting very proud on the grass, if a kid is running and falls and hits their head, or any part of them it will be a very serious injury,” he said.

Some months ago Laois County Council replaced streetlights.

“Aidan Mullins in fairness got them fixed, but it sets a precedent now, we want the council to draw down the bond,” he said.

He paid €300k for his house in 2008.

“It’s just very frustrating, we want it finished off, it must be four years since they drew up a list of works. People have to take some responsibility,” the resident said.

Cllr Aidan Mullins last December 2017 demanded that the council drawn down the bond “straight away” to complete the estate.

“For three years we have been pushed from pillar to post on this and the receivers are avoiding their responsibilities in Gracefield Manor. Their behaviour is not acceptable,” he said.

He submitted his fourth motion in three years on the estate, at the December 14 meeting of the Portarlington Graiguecullen Municipal District, asking for an update from Laois County Council.

The reply from Senior Planner Angela McEvoy was that the council has contacted both the receiver Capital Assets, and Capita Assets, “in relation to the resolution plan for this estate”.

“A programme of works has been agreed and initially the council was to carry out the works with Capital Assets under the bond. However the ownership of the Bond changed (to above named). A further update will be given for the next meeting,” Ms McEvoy said.

The estate is caught in a complex web between a receiver, a bank and a vulture fund.

In 2014 the council said it was in negotiations with the receiver Capital Assets to finish the estate. In 2015 Ulster Bank purchased the loan and released money to the receiver to finish the works. However no tenderer was appointed. In 2016 Ulster Bank transferred the bond to Cerberus, a US vulture investment fund. Last February a company called Capita Assets became responsible for the estate.

“The purchase of the loan by Ulster bank delayed the process, and promises to draw down the Bond were not fulfilled. Ulster Bank transferred the Bond to Cerberus, a vulture fund, and they were never going to be interested in finishing off the estate. The Receiver has been of little help and avoiding responsibilities. I would like to see the Council draw down the Bond and complete the outstanding works to allow the estate to be taken in charge,” Cllr Mullins has said.

Below: houses in Russell Close in Gracefield Manor.