Thursday, 18 February 2021
Land Development Agency Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I thank the Minister of State for attending to discuss the Land Development Agency Bill. The Bill is a proactive attempt to tackle the housing crisis we face in this country. It is clear that we need to build more houses and that increasing the supply of houses in the market in an affordable manner is the optimal approach to dealing with the housing crisis. The Land Development Agency Bill represents an opportunity to undertake strategic land assembly and fully utilise State lands to build affordable homes and sustainable communities in line with the best environmental practices. In general, the proactive approach to dealing with the housing crisis is welcomed. However, we must ensure that this agency will be the most efficient use of public money, both in terms of utilising local authority networks currently in place and prevention of potential misuse of funding. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Yesterday, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, reported that greater increases in incentives for people to buy will most likely increase the price of housing due to the low level of supply in the country. It is imperative, therefore, that we pursue mechanisms to increase supply but not at any cost. We must learn the lessons of the past. Growing up in Ireland, I remember seeing ghost estates across the country, places with no amenities, transport infrastructure or green spaces. Often, housing developments were left incomplete. We must ensure we do not end up with ghost estates again. Strategic planning is required to ensure that any development will have the necessary public infrastructure in place. We want to provide people with homes and communities, not just houses with no life or purpose. We cannot allow circumstances to arise again where communities suffer from social deprivation, there is little opportunity to succeed or get on in life and people get stuck in a downward spiral. Mixed tenure housing, where there is a range of different cost types of housing available, is the best way to ensure we create an inclusive and tolerant community.
I welcome the change to the affordability clause. The Bill will provide that, where public lands in urban centres of over 10,000 persons are being developed for housing, there will be a requirement to use a portion of land to provide a minimum level of affordable housing. This affordability delivery requirement will also be taken into account when valuing land for sale to the LDA, thereby reducing the cost of the land and allowing for cheaper homes. The Bill reflects a base of 50% in terms of the affordability requirements, increasing from the 30% set by the previous Government and taking into account the programme for Government's commitment to affordable housing and the ability to vary up and down based on housing needs.
We need to take the issue of affordable housing seriously and I hope this legislation will be a proactive step in the right direction.