Dublin's Lord Mayor said she would like to “punish” developers who get land rezoned on the promise of building homes but then sell the site at its enhanced value instead.
Alison Gilliland was scathing in her criticism of developers who lobbied extensively to get the former Chivers industrial site in Coolock, Dublin, rezoned for housing.
Dublin City Council granted the rezoning in 2018, based on proposals for 350 homes on a mixed-tenure model but the site is now on the market undeveloped with planning permission for 550 build-to-rent apartments.
“The site has been flipped,” Ms Gilliland, a Labour Party councillor, told a housing conference.
There is no law against the practice which Ms Gilliland said was widespread in Dublin city, where work was under way on only 20-23pc of housing applications.
“The rest are not active because there is land-hoarding to increase the value. It’s speculation,” she said.
She said such “commodification and financialisation” of housing was the biggest challenge the sector faced.
“It’s seen as trading, as achieving assets and wealth, rather than the social function of housing,” she said.
“Many of us would like to punish the developers for what they are doing on that site,” she said of the Chivers lands.
“We need to look at how we deal with land speculation, which is exactly what they have done.”
Removing zoning was not practical, she said, but removing planning permission if building did not begin swiftly might be an option.
Contacted afterwards, Andrew Gillick, managing director of Platinum Land which owns the Chivers site, rejected Ms Gilliland’s remarks.
“The land is not hoarded, speculated or flipped,” he said. He said planning had only been finalised in January this year after five years of work.
Mr Gillick said the project was a “good news story” as 30pc of the units would be leased to Dublin City Council (DCC) at a “substantially discounted” rent on a 25-year lease when built.
“We are willing to increase this further should the demand be there from DCC,” he said.
DCC confirmed a lease was agreed last month but said the documents had not been signed yet and the deal required Department of Housing approval.
The issue was raised at a conference hosted by the Irish Council for Social Housing, where the chairman of the soon-to-be-established Housing Commission, John O’Connor, said more effort must be made to bring vacant properties back into use.
"Ireland has more vacant buildings as a percentage of our overall buildings than any other country in Europe, possibly any other country in the world. We have a really serious issue with vacant property,” he said.
Developers should refurbish, not demolish, he said.
A commission to examine housing-related issues, including calls for a referendum on a right to housing, was promised in the Programme for Government.
Mr O’Connor was appointed chair in May but the terms of reference have not been finalised yet.
He said expressions of interest would be sought from people with expertise who would like to be members in the next few weeks and it was expected the membership would be finalised by the end of November.