Thursday, 18 February 2021
Land Development Agency Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I have many concerns with this proposed Land Development Agency legislation, primarily the pushing of a misguided housing policy pursued by this and previous Governments. It is a policy based on private markets and housing developers being given the responsibility of solving the State's housing crisis. This is a continuation of a flawed assumption that the interests of private developers driven by profit will ever align with the interests of working families who want and need an affordable home to live in with security and comfort, whether they are homeowners or renters. Indeed, for those currently paying excessive rents, those struggling to buy an affordable home and the thousands of homeless people, it is obvious that this and successive Government strategies are failing. Those they are failing most are those most in need. It is hard to imagine how during a housing crisis of this scale and a global pandemic, when we desperately need public, social and affordable housing, the Government will take the precious public land we own, which could be developed for a purpose that best suits those most in need, and sell it to private developers.
The fact local elected representatives do not need to give consent is not only an attack on democracy, but it is downright insulting to those who have been democratically elected to those positions. This is a mechanism of stripping local councillors of their right to have a say in respect of the best use for public land in their constituencies. However, it also removes from those local representatives the obligation to represent the views of local communities; the people they are there to give voice to.
In my constituency, a group that desperately needs a voice when it comes to the Land Development Agency is that involved in Columb Barracks, Mullingar and Connolly Barracks in County Longford. A group established with the purpose of identifying public land for development has some merit. Such an idea could allow us to identify land to get the maximum amount of use for resources while ensuring that we provide decent, comfortable and affordable homes for families. However, that is not what this is. This proposal is yet another attempt to let the market fix the problem with the real potential of it being the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, part two. Just like the shared equity scheme, the Land Development Agency will exasperate the housing crisis. Such schemes seem to be the calling card of this Government. Things will get worse for those most in need and better for the developers and the banks that finance them. Things will absolutely improve for the vested interests in this country and groups that hold sway over Fine Fáil, Fine Gael and now the Green Party.