Private developers bearing ‘no risk’ under house leasing scheme

Green Party accuses Government of ‘privatising everything’

Green Party leader  Eamon Ryan said: ‘We want certain things to be in public ownership and social housing should be in public ownership for use forever and a day for the people of Ireland.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said: ‘We want certain things to be in public ownership and social housing should be in public ownership for use forever and a day for the people of Ireland.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Government is using the same approach in its housing leasing scheme as in the national broadband plan by allowing private developers to own the asset after a “no risk investment”, according to the Green Party.

Party leader Eamon Ryan said the leasing scheme the Government was promoting was very similar in its approach to the national broadband plan and “costing us a fortune”.

“You’re effectively saying to private developer ‘you’ve a no risk guaranteed income for 25 years and at the end of it you own the asset’,” he told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The Dublin Bay South TD said that “the Government is privatising everything. We want certain things to be in public ownership and social housing should be in public ownership for use forever and a day for the people of Ireland”.

But the Taoiseach said the Government takes “a practical rather than an ideological view” and he insisted that “we need the private sector and the State sector. We need social housing and private housing. We need houses for people on the housing list and houses for people who want to buy.”

Under the leasing scheme property developers and investors provide 25-year leases, co-ordinated by the Housing Agency, on new housing units and the property reverts to the owner at the end of the lease arrangement.

Mr Ryan said that, like the national broadband plan, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was also critical of housing programmes.

Last year it analysed that the net present cost of delivering units through mechanisms such as Hap (Housing Assistance Payment), Ras (Rental Accommodation Scheme) and leasing is higher than building or acquisition”.

He highlighted the Irish Council for Social Housing report launched on Wednesday, which called for the legislation underpinning the Land Development Agency to be introduced quickly.

The council also called for State land to be used extensively for the delivery of social and affordable rental housing, he said.

Mr Ryan called on the Government to “recognise that its way is broken and that it must change” and the way to do that is to tell the Land Development Agency to have 50 per cent affordable cost-rental housing and 50 per cent social housing on all State lands.

The Taoiseach said, however, that the Irish Council for Social Housing report showed approved housing bodies housed over 4,000 families last year and exceeded the Rebuilding Ireland targets.

“Approved housing bodies do this with public money,” he said. “That shows our commitment to delivering social housing through bodies such as those.”

Mr Varadkar agreed that rental costs were a real problem and they wanted to tackle high rents.

But he said that Mr Ryan “thinks there is only one way to reduce rents while I and this Government appreciate that we must do it in a number of different ways”.

More social housing was needed and the Government had added 9,000 units to the social housing stock last year. People moved from the rental sector to private housing and that freed up properties for others who needed to rent.

“That is one way of doing it. The second way is more private housing built by private developers because lots of people want to buy their own homes.”

He said that in relation to the Land Development Agency up to 50 per cent of sites should be social and affordable housing and 50 per cent homes for people to buy and “we must apply some flexibility around the different sites in different areas”.