Councillors ‘angered’ by plans to transfer powers to Land Development Agency

Committee told there are no ‘magic wand policies’ that will address housing crisis overnight

The Oireachtas housing committee has been told there are no ‘magic wand policies’ that will address the State’s housing crisis overnight. File image: iStock.

The Oireachtas housing committee has been told there are no ‘magic wand policies’ that will address the State’s housing crisis overnight. File image: iStock.

 

Associations representing more than 900 city and county councillors have demanded that proposals to strip power from elected local representatives in favour of the Land Development Agency (LDA) be scrapped.

Representatives of the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) and the Local Authority Members’ Association (LAMA) appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Housing on Tuesday to make their views known on the Bill that would formally establish the State agency.

Cllr Mary Hoade, president of AILG, said she was “angered” by proposals in the Bill to remove reserved powers from councillors when it came to the disposal of land. She said the Government must continue to ensure the primacy of local authorities in being the lead provider of social and affordable housing.

“There can’t be any deviation from that,” she said.

The AILG has called for a total of 14 amendments to the Bill.

John Sheahan, of LAMA, prefaced his remarks by saying there were “no quick fixes or magic-wand policies that would resolve housing needs overnight”. He said there was merit in the LDA Bill in terms of collating all the data and creating a masterplan. However, he argued that it went “too far in removing decision making from the people and their elected councillors”.

Ride roughshod

If county development plans were not given primacy, and the LDA was not made subject to them, Cllr Sheahan told the committee the LDA could ride roughshod across all the planning frameworks.

“If you set up the LDA as it is you will be giving them a carte blanche to do what they want in some local authorities.”

The LDA is central to the Government’s plans to deliver social and affordable housing at scale throughout the State.

In operation since 2018, but as yet without statutory powers, its purpose is to drive strategic land assembly and utilise State and public lands to build social and affordable homes. Land banks already earmarked include Shanganagh Castle, Co Dublin; Dundrum, Dublin; and Con Colbert Station in Limerick.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien says he wants the sod broken on Shanganagh Castle by the end of this year, where it is planned to build 306 cost-rental homes, 200 social housing apartments and 91 affordable homes and apartments.

Affordability

Cllr Anne Colgan, of the AILG, told the committee that 30,000 social homes were “in the pipeline” at present in local authorities around the State. She said the AILG had a difficulty with the definition for affordability, which was the core of the Bill. She said it referred to affordability in the context of market price, but there was no clarity on what that actually meant.

Cllr Colgan said with homes being built on local authority land and the LDA being able to borrow at reasonable rates, the price should be far below market value because of these efficiencies. She said affordability should be calculated and defined on something other than the market price.