Saturday 20 July 2019

State's LDA sets aside €125m for high-profile site

Agency wants to build more than 600 homes in south Dublin aimed at lower-paid, writes Michael Cogley

Councillor Ossian Smyth. Photo: Peter Cavanagh
Councillor Ossian Smyth. Photo: Peter Cavanagh

The newly-formed Land Development Agency plans to spend up to €125m building over 600 homes on a site in south Dublin, it is understood.

The State body is set to be capitalised by around €1.25bn with funds coming from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (Isif).

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It has been given the remit to build 150,000 homes over the next 20 years. It was set up to oversee the construction of public and private housing on State lands.

It has also emerged that the development, unlike most other arms of the State, is not covered by the Lobbying Act.

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown councillors previously fielded concerns around the transfer of the Shanganagh site from the council to the agency and voted down a proposition to do so in April. However, a new council makeup may mean that the LDA's plans for the site could pass.

It intends to build its first cost-rental development at the site. Under the scheme homes would be available to workers earning up to €50,000 as an individual or €75,000 as a couple. The LDA has pitched that the homes will be offered at 30pc below market rates.

Green party councillor Ossian Smyth said councillors wanted to see a mix of incomes through the final development.

"The devil is in the detail and we have yet to agree exactly how rents would be calculated, when the land and houses would revert back to the council, and what the criteria would be for who gets allocated the new homes," Smyth said.

"One thing that is clear is that we don't want to build a sink estate," he said. "Any new, large council housing development will have a mix of young families, single people, empty-nesters and retirement villages."

The absence of LDA officials from the Lobbying Act has been heavily criticised.

The LDA has also yet to be underlined by primary legislation.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien claimed that there was a lack of oversight over the newly-formed entity.

"It's not acceptable that they're not on the lobbying register. If it requires an amendment to the legislation to make it so then I will bring it forward," he said.

"We need transparency - the LDA don't get to decide how they're going to operate."

Senior housing lecturer at Technology University Dublin Lorcan Sirr said that there was "limited transparency" between developers and the State.

"The lack of transparency around the State and the private sector who plan to make a lot of money from publicly owned assets is unacceptable," he said.

"There is no public accountability and we already have a lack of trust in our institutions, particularly in planning and land, without doubling down on this opaque system."

The LDA made no comment when asked about its presence on the register.

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