Monday 22 July 2019

Establishment of agency better late than never


Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Amid growing unrest over the Government's apparent inability to tackle the housing crisis, the Land Development Agency (LDA) is born.

It comes two days after gardaí in balaclavas were posted to observe the rough removal of housing protesters from a long-vacant city building by similarly masked men, resulting in arrests and protesters being taken to hospital.

At a time when many are wondering just whose side this Government is on when it comes to housing, the State has taken one of its most important steps - not just towards solving the short-term crisis but also to help cut out boom-and-bust property cycles.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said we should have had a Land Development Agency decades ago. He's right - it would have saved us quite a lot of bother. The fact we had the Taoiseach and four ministers in attendance tells us just how important the Cabinet thinks it is.

One big reason we have a housing crisis is an absence of a land-use control by the State in Ireland, a factor highlighted in a report by the National Economic and Social Council earlier this year. It cites the success of countries like Germany, Belgium and Austria in keeping the lid on inflation by strategically controlling use of land tracts. This is partly what the LDA will do.

In contrast, witness last year's sale of RTÉ land to the highest bidder for the highest price, thus ensuring only expensive homes are built. The LDA will fast-track State land into housing while ensuring a 40pc social and affordable housing content. In the long-term it will assemble vast land banks bought privately and control the usage.

It will have CPO powers. Whether we like the LDA or not will depend on our politics - whether we believe the State should provide social and affordable housing on all its lands, not at all, or somewhere in between.

It is also unlikely any of its houses will be ready before 2020. But, like the LDA itself, better late than never.

Irish Independent

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