Housing crisis: new agency to develop State lands

Government hopes release of State lands to build homes will drive down cost of housing

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will  update the Cabinet on the National Regeneration and Development Agency (NRDA), a key element of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will update the Cabinet on the National Regeneration and Development Agency (NRDA), a key element of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The release of State lands for the development of homes will be aimed at driving down the cost of housing in key areas of cities across Ireland, Ministers are expected to be told on Wednesday.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will update the Cabinet on the National Regeneration and Development Agency (NRDA), a key element of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure plan.

The agency is also being described by Government sources as one of the last remaining big policy moves to tackle the housing crisis.

Its remit will be to develop State lands – particularly brownfield sites in cities, such as disused transport stations and council assets – to provide more affordable homes. In doing so, it may also acquire private lands neighbouring larger State assets to provide much larger land holdings for development.

It is understood Mr Murphy has identified a number of high-profile sites to release for housing, but these will not be revealed for a number of weeks

It is understood that a model likely to be followed by the new NRDA will be that used by Transport for London, which teamed up with builders to develop housing on its unused assets, such as old underground stations.

Briefing

Transport for London gave a briefing earlier this year to senior Government figures on how it operates.

Dublin Bus depots in Donnybrook, Ringsend, Clontarf and Conyngham Road are among those consistently cited by Government figures as obvious examples of land that would be more suitable for housing than their current use.

However, while it is understood that Mr Murphy has identified a number of high-profile sites to release for housing, these will not be revealed for a number of weeks. He has been working on the policy with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in recent months.

Post-boom ghost estate: Some 45,000 new homes must be built in Ireland’s five cities over the next three years. Photograph: Eric Luke
Estate agents have told the Government that house prices in certain areas are now dropping if the supply of housing has increased nearby. File photograph: Eric Luke

Rather, he will give his Cabinet colleagues a broad overview of the structure and intention of the new agency at a meeting in Derrynane, Co Kerry on Wednesday.

The new NRDA will focus on the development of affordable homes, which Mr Murphy has defined as properties where the occupants pay around a third of their income towards either rent or mortgage repayments. The construction of social houses will largely remain under the remit of county councils.

Sources say that once State lands are released in a certain area, it will serve to reduce the cost of nearby land too

The use of compulsory purchase orders to acquire neighbouring lands to State sites is expected to be part of the power of the agency, similar to how the Dublin Docklands Development Agency and other organisations operated.

Last resort

However, it is understood that such purchases – which would be at below market value – would be made as a last resort where private landowners chose not to collaborate with large housing projects.

Sources say that once State lands are released in a certain area, it will serve to reduce the cost of nearby land too, and will also bring down the cost of other properties.

“It’ll definitely have that effect,” said one source, who said the availability of credit during the years of the property boom did not keep such prices down. The Central Bank lending rules will help ensure that does not happen again, the source added.

Estate agents have also told the Government that house prices in certain areas are now dropping if the supply of housing has increased nearby, and this has also informed the thinking of Ministers.

“Where a new scheme comes on it does have a mitigating effect,” the source said.