Moran outlined concerns over poor communication, policy direction and future of agency in letter to O’Brien
THE former chair of the Land Development Agency (LDA) has outlined major concerns about the agency’s future direction, the Government’s affordable housing policy and his salary. His worries are detailed in a 12-page resignation letter to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
John Moran, the former secretary-general of the Department of Finance, wrote to Mr O’Brien to set out in detail his concerns about the LDA, just days after his term as chair ended last May.
“It was a source of considerable frustration and disappointment that there was for all intents and purposes limited or no consultation with the board about important policy formation during the past two years,” Mr Moran wrote.
He said this had led to misgivings about the definition of affordable accommodation “being set by reference to a discount to a dysfunctional market, rather than to income levels”, as well as concerns about rents being set by reference to the cost of a specific development and removing the power from local councillors over the sale of land to the LDA.
He also raised issues about his own workload and the expectation his role as chair would only be remunerated for 20 days of work a year. Mr Moran received a sum of €31,500 a year for his work, but had sought to be paid a daily rate equivalent to what he earned as secretary-general, capped at €150,000 — the same as the chair of Nama at the time.
His letter stated: “Up to now, my devoting all this extra time gratis has allowed things to progress safely. This is, however, no longer sustainable or possible for me personally.”
The Department of Housing refused to release the letter under the Freedom of Information Act, on the grounds that its contents were under consideration and Mr Moran was setting out his “own personal position”. However, a copy of the letter has been seen by the Sunday Independent.
Mr Moran wrote that the Government’s ambition for the agency seemed to have been “significantly curtailed or delayed” and that since the 2020 election no one communicated to the board “that the mission was being reduced” from the initial ambition for the LDA to build 150,000 homes.
He said innovative ways the agency had tried to accelerate the delivery of housing were not accepted by the department, and the legislation underpinning the agency limited its resources to €2.5bn, which would “hardly build one annual requirement of 7,500 homes”.
Mr O’Brien has since secured in the region of €5bn for the LDA through state funding and borrowing, but Mr Moran believes it needs up to three times this amount.
He said in his letter that he found it “particularly difficult, nay impossible, to operate without a more open and more frequent interaction involving rapid feedback between the board” and Mr O’Brien and his department.
Mr Moran claimed in the letter, dated May 6, that he raised the issue of communications with the department when he first met with Mr O’Brien
and the minister had “promised alternative ready access for me to your own office”, but “this did not materialise”.
“You will be aware of the times I have raised what I considered to be serious issues and how, given your other priorities, you have found it impossible for us to have the monthly meaningful engagement you promised,” Mr Moran said.
“It should not be necessary to have to wait until the pot is close to exploding to have to request a meeting (and even then to have it declined).”
He said he remained concerned about “the scale and speed of delivery and disruption, diversity of thought and the lack of action, commitment to ensure more successful regionally balanced development and also to proactively manage the intervention and taxation of investment funds, once the necessary floor in the market we sought in 2012/2013 was achieved”.
Mr O’Brien told the Sunday Independent last night: “Mr Moran served as interim chairperson of the Land Development Agency since January 2019 and I would like to thank him for all of his work since then. The LDA is now moving to a really crucial and exciting phase of delivery and will be a significant actor in delivering affordable homes.
“I’ve prioritised the passing of legislation to underpin the agency so that it can get on with what it’s intended to do, delivering homes at scale. To date, all of the LDA’s funding requirements have been provided for.
“The overall capitalisation of €1.25bn for the LDA from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), along with its borrowing ceiling of €1.25bn, are prescribed in the legislation which the LDA was consulted on during the bill drafting phase.
“I want the LDA to work for our country. We’ve made great progress in just 12 months, and we are looking forward to appointing a new chair shortly.”