Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has rejected several Opposition proposals to change the way the Land Development Agency (LDA) works, saying they would “neuter” its ability to tackle the housing crisis.
Mr O’Brien clashed with Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin and Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit when the Oireachtas housing committee discussed draft laws to establish on a statutory basis the LDA, which is charged with co-ordinating the development of public land for housing.
Facing Opposition complaints that the legislation would lead to unaffordable private housing being built on public land, the Minister insisted that the emphasis will be on social and affordable housing.
“The LDA is a public body. It’s a State body, we own it. The way that it’s being portrayed by some is that it’s like we’re selling our land bank off the Trump Organisation. This is us managing our own land,” said Mr O’Brien.
“I would see the absolute predominance of the developments particularly in our urban centres being up to 90 per cent affordable and indeed of 100 per cent social and affordable and that will happen. But it will only happen when we set up the agency on a primary legislative footing.”
He was speaking during the committee stage debate on the Land Development Agency Bill, which is dealing with 259 proposed amendments to the legislation. Most of these were proposed by Opposition TDs and the Minister indicated he will not accept any.
What is the Opposition argument?
Mr Ó Broin said it would take five years before the LDA would deliver a single home from the time it started its work in 2018. “That doesn’t seem to me to suggest that it has either the capacity, ability or indeed the urgency to meet the challenges of our housing crisis,” he said.
“This argument that it is quicker to set up a new State agency to deliver homes, rather than funding our local authorities directly to deliver large-scale projects, simply isn’t the case.”
Mr Boyd Barrett said the LDA should have a different role, arguing that it is “replacing” local authorities, but delaying the delivery of public housing. The legislation would lead to the “marketising” of public land, he added.
“What [the LDA] should do is aggressively go after the speculators and the land hoarders and the people sitting on vacant buildings. It is infuriating to people when they look at empty buildings being sat on by speculators and investors,” he said.
“That’s what they want the State LDA to do: go after these people. Take the empty buildings that they’re sitting on. Take the zoned land that they’re sitting on and drip-feeding into the market at a pace that suits them keeping land prices up”