At its foundation, NAMA's purpose was made crystal clear: its job is to restrict supply in the Irish market for homes. Minister Lenihan called it "preventing a fire sale", which is euphemistic but leaves the position fairly clear.
So far, NAMA has been successful in its goals. The property price register shows that people (not many people, but enough to matter) are nowadays paying huge prices for homes in so-so locations in a bankrupt, insolvent nation. The Irish obsession with getting mortgaged-up as quickly as possible regardless of prevailing economic conditions has clearly not entirely faded away. The founders of NAMA gambled that, by withholding Ireland's immense oversupply of boom-era properties from sale, you could have a small but enthusiastic market for houses at excessively high (from an objective point of view) prices.
Many people will raise their eyebrows at this, pointing out that prices today can often be 40% of the bubble peak in 2007. But the fact is, you can't measure things like that. The bubble began in 1996, and prices are still far, far above 1996 levels. And just in case you think 1996 is too low a bar, have a look at the economic data for 1996: falling unemployment, extremely healthy business creation stats, great confidence. Ireland today is miles behind 1996. It makes no sense for the housing market to still be above that level. But the free market is about as rational as a hippy who's swallowed 50 blotters of LSD.
So, short-term, NAMA's strategy is going to go on working. They already own most of Ireland's unoccupied houses, excepting holiday homes in areas far from economic centres of activity.
But long term? The challenge for NAMA is that house-owners are not immortal. They die every day. Assume that the majority of deaths are of people born around 1940, and eventually you get a steady trickle of houses not in NAMA ownership which they cannot prevent from coming to market.
Not only that, but NAMA's success creates an inflated housing price which those who inherit the house must pay as inheritance duties. For many inheritors, a combo of economic depression and opportunities abroad might motivate them to liquidate their overpriced asset in Ireland at the inflated price NAMA has created for them, then hightail it out of Ireland for a luxurious retirement abroad, where €200K will buy a much better lifestyle than Ireland can ever offer.
Presumably, NAMA have a game-plan for this eventuality. Perhaps they feel that Ireland's mania for property is strong enough to withstand the added supply from homeowners passing on. Or maybe, just maybe the reaper will finally bring Irish house prices into line with the rest of the economy.