State sitting on enough land for more than 60,000 homes – including racecourse, mint and barracks sites

Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin. Photo: Robbie Reynolds

Philip Ryan

The Land Development Agency (LDA) has identified State-owned properties and landbanks that could be used to build more than 60,000 new homes.

In a report to be considered by the Cabinet, the LDA highlighted sites in 10 areas of the country that could be utilised to develop social and affordable housing.

In Dublin, the agency earmarked land on the sites of the Central Bank’s national mint in Sandyford and on the Leopardstown Racecourse, along with Dublin Bus’s Conyngham Road depot and Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines.

The ESB Networks site on the Sarsfield Road in Cork and Galway Harbour have also been pinpointed as State-owned properties which could be used to build more homes.

The sites have been classified into categories based on the level of work required to transfer ownership to the LDA and subsequently redevelop the areas into housing.

Some of the sites are seen as having complex constraints due a range of issue, and are viewed as longer-term projects than others.

The LDA said Cathal Brugha Barracks is one of the more difficult sites to develop.

Five cities – Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Galway and Limerick – along with five regional centres, namely Sligo, Letterkenny, Dundalk, Drogheda and Athlone, are the areas of the country recommended by the LDA for development through the construction of houses on State-owned sites.

The Report on Relevant Public Land will be considered by the Government, and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will be responsible for accepting or rejecting the recommendations.

Relevant public land is described by the LDA as land owned by state bodies in settlements with a population of greater than 10,000 persons, rounded to the nearest 500.

There are currently some 48 settlements meeting this criteria but the report focuses on 10 urban and regional centres.

There have been long-running battles between state agencies and the LDA over the powerful housing body’s plans to earmark land for development.

The agency is statutorily required to report to the Government with details of State-owned landbanks and properties that can be used for the construction of new homes.

The LDA has been developing social, affordable and cost-rental housing on state land. There are plans to build properties at the Devoy Barracks in Kildare, St Kevin’s Hospital in Cork and Castlelands in Dublin. In total, the agency has 5,000 homes at either the design, planning or construction phase.

Meanwhile, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney has said the Government has no plans to specifically build houses for hundreds of workers who are being sought for a $1bn biopharmaceutical campus in Co Limerick.

Mr Coveney said he assumed the 300 staff being sought by US med-tech giant Ely Lilly are already housed and would not need a home.

However, the interim chief executive of the IDA, Mary Buckley said that Ireland “cannot take FDI [foreign direct investment] for granted” and called on the Government to focus on “housing” and other issues in order to maintain Ireland’s attractiveness for FDI.

When Mr Coveney was asked by reporters at an event in Limerick – where Ely Lilly announced its $1bn investment – if the Government had a plan to house hundreds of workers sought by the US firm, he replied: “No.”

“One of the reasons why Lilly is locating close to Limerick is there is a big population base here already and many of the people who are going to be employed here are already living [in the area] and have their accommodation needs already catered for, in and around the mid-west region,” Mr Coveney said.

“This isn’t like we are going to be bringing in 350 people from other parts of the world, having to build houses for each of them.

“Most of the people who will be employed here will already be living reasonably close. We need to build more houses anyway, not just for people who are going to be working with Lilly.”

Ms Buckley said the tech sector in Ireland was facing “challenging times” due to “the job losses that have taken place recently”.

“I think it’s fair to say it is very disappointing for people who have lost their jobs recently and have been informed that they may be losing their jobs,” she said.

While job opportunities remain “in the sector”, Ms Buckley said Ireland “cannot take FDI for granted”.

She concluded: “From an Ireland perspective, we have to remain competitive, and it is hugely important that we manage the carrying capacity of the economy for the future, and ensure that housing, planning, water, energy, and talent policies for the future are part and parcel of the focus as we move forward.”