Dáil debates

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Property Services (Land Price Register) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


7:00 pm

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for the comprehensive response. Indeed, it is not the one I wanted to hear but I appreciate that significant work and analysis went into it.

In terms of the way we brought forward this Bill and the intention behind it, we would have been happy to work through with the Government and compromise on the issues that she raised. We are aware of the different issues she raised and discussed them in detail with the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisor, OPLA, in preparing this Bill. It would be possible, through Committee Stage debate and amendments, to deal with a lot of the issues and I would certainly be willing to do that and to engage constructively on it.

The difficulty and challenge in dealing with this is determining where to draw the line. I am acutely aware that if the line is drawn too wide, it could bring in too many people but if it is drawn too tightly, one simply would not get an accurate picture of what is happening with land.

I will touch on a couple of the issues raised. The lack of data on this is costing us as a country and is hampering our decision-making. I welcome the land value sharing tax that the Government is bringing in. It is a positive measure but it does not address the core issue raised in the Kenny report from almost 50 years ago. It provides a mechanism for helping the State to recoup some of the uplift in land values which, as the Minister correctly said, can then be put into social housing and infrastructure, which is a very welcome move. However, it does not help to cap land prices for housing or infrastructure. That failure to cap the prices is costing us dearly as a society and a State. If we had better data on what is happening with land, the gaping holes in our policy and decision-making that are costing us so dearly would not continue. This is something that has been on the radar since the Kenny report, which was published almost 50 years ago. We have gone for decades without implementing the right policies on this and one of the reasons is that we do not have the right data. I am happy to work through issues that need to be resolved in this Bill but by not progressing this Bill at all, we will continue not to have the full data on land that we need.

Another area where policy and decisions around this issue have failed us in recent years is the vacant sites levy that is being replaced. There are two issues with that levy that explain why it did not work. The first is the loopholes in it and the difficulties with its implementation, which hopefully will be tightened up with its successor. The other reason it was utterly ineffective is that we do not know what land price inflation amounts to. How can a levy on vacant land to stop land hoarding be set if the real rate of land inflation is not known? If the levy is set at 3% and land inflation is at 5%, then it is not going to be very effective. More importantly, land price inflation in Dublin could be anything from 5% to 9% but it could be much lower in other parts of the country. That is why it is important to set different rates in different parts of the country to reflect the reality on the ground. There is no point in having a tax to stop land hoarding set at 5%, 6%, 7% or 8% in areas of the country where land price inflation is at 0% or 1% or in having it below the rate of land price inflation in other areas.

As a State, as a society and as a people in a housing crisis and housing emergency that has been going on for years and is creating huge trauma and stress for people, we simply do not know. In one sense - and I mean this constructively - I can criticise the Government for the wrong policies on this, for making the wrong decisions or for not doing enough, but when we do not have the correct data, all I can do as a parliamentarian and as a housing spokesperson in opposition is make the best informed contributions that I can. When it comes to land price inflation I, the Government and everybody else are in the dark. It must be addressed.

I appreciate the Minister, Deputy McEntee, has put forward the case as to why the Government does not want to support the Bill. While I disagree with that, I respect it. I must urge, as strongly as possible, that if the Government believes this is not the way to address data around land price inflation and land costs, then the onus is on the Government to bring forward legislation that will do it, and which it is happy with. The Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers and I have put forward our attempt at that. If the Government is to reject this, then I want it to bring forward similar legislation in this space. We cannot wait another 50 years to address this. These have been live issues since before many of us were even born.


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