Land Development Agency may ease stalled construction of homes

Up to 5,000 affordable homes could be kickstarted on privately owned sites

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 affordable homes could be constructed on private residential estates with Land Development Agency involvement.  Photograph:  David Davies/PA

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 affordable homes could be constructed on private residential estates with Land Development Agency involvement. Photograph: David Davies/PA

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The new Land Development Agency (LDA) could be involved in building up to 5,000 affordable homes on privately owned land under a substantial expansion of its role.

The LDA has been set up to provide thousands of houses and apartments on land within State control. Some of the major development sites include Shanganagh in south Dublin and the former grounds of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, as well as lands near Colbert train station in Limerick.

However, in a dramatic extension of its remit, it is understood it will also have a role in helping progress large residential developments on privately owned lands which have already received planning permission but where work has not started.

The new role for the LDA is expected to feature in the Government’s major Housing for All strategy scheduled to be published early next month by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

The inclusion of a role for the LDA in “kick-starting” stalled private developments which already have planning approval has been under active consideration by Mr O’Brien and his officials and is expected to form part of the final plan.

The additional role for the LDA would involve it providing “forward funding” to certain developments in key areas which have already been granted planning permission but have not started for one reason or another.

Funding difficulties

This is to address a phenomenon where there is no legal or planning impediment to commencing a major private development but some other issue – usually related to funding difficulties – has arisen that has delayed the project.

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The number of housing developments in Dublin which have received planning permission but have yet to commence increased by 27 per cent for apartments and a more modest 4 per cent for houses between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020, according to the latest figures compiled by the Housing Supply Co-ordinating Taskforce for Dublin.

It showed that, across the four local authority areas in the capital, a total of 42,772 units had received permission but had not commenced. That consisted of 33,560 apartments and 6,792 houses.

Moreover, its analysis of Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs) in the Dublin region indicated that planning activity at various stages of the process was strong, but it had not translated into construction activity.

SHDs are larger developments with a minimum of 100 units and are a key component of any plan to provide residential housing on scale.

Faster delivery

The SHD model was introduced to allow promoters of large developments to apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission and bypass local authorities. The shortcut route has seen developers beset with legal challenges in the courts and is to be discontinued. However, many have received permission but are not progressing to construction at the speed that might be expected.

The rationale behind the move is that the LDA can plan a role in delivering affordable housing on all land, irrespective of its ownership.

The agency will be asked to have a look at developments which are not moving quickly – or have stopped – with a view to providing funding and expertise to expedite the construction phase and get quicker delivery.

The funding model for such an intervention has not yet been disclosed but there will be a strategic partnership with tough conditions that ensure it gives value-for-money for the State’s investment.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 affordable homes could be constructed on private residential estates with LDA involvement.

Because planning permission has already been granted for these stalled developments, the first homes under this new departure could be delivered by as early as 2022.

The major new Government strategy was scheduled to be launched at the end of last month but was postponed until early September because it was not fully ready. Mr O’Brien faced criticism from opposition spokespeople for failing to complete the plan on time.