New land agency for Ireland aims to boost number of affordable homes for sale

Ireland is to get a new land agency which will unlock state owned sites for new home building from 2020 with the aim of boosting the number of affordable properties for ae.

Acres of unused sites nationwide will be sold by the €1.25 billion Land Development Agency (LDA) which will be given the power to identify and buy the land needed.

Under the plan, developers will have to agree to requirements such as ensuring the site has 30% affordable housing and 10% social housing, the first time that such a requirement with state land has been put in place.

‘This is the first time that such an agency with such a strategic focus on state land for the public good has been set up in Ireland,’ said Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

‘We are going to break the boom and bust cycle of housing that has so badly affected two generations of our people in recent history. To properly break that damaging cycle in housing, we have to alter our attitude and our approach to land,’ he added.

The agency will have the flexibility to develop sites itself or to develop larger projects in joint partnerships with developers. It will unlock sites, such as hospital lands, barracks or depots, for development.

Initially, the land agency will deliver 3,000 homes on eight sites identified across the country. Nonetheless, the Government believes it could deliver as many as 150,000 homes over the next 20 years.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has given a cautious welcome to the establishment of the LDS and it believes that rather than going to the highest bidder, state lands should go to the best scheme.

‘This would give the best public interest value and could also mean a better tenure/unit mix leading to better integrated communities. We note the agency is going to be run along commercial basis and this raises some concerns,’ said SCSI director general Áine Myler.

‘The fixation on price over value needs to be dealt with. One off dividends to the exchequer for land sales don’t offer the long term social and economic benefits of a functioning affordable housing system. We’d also encourage the retention of housing stock in public ownership for the long term social housing strategy to emulate cities like Vienna and Amsterdam,’ she explained.

‘While land costs are one of the main factors in the rising costs of residential units, not all the logjams in the system relate to land. Many relate to planning, others to service capacity and skills shortages, so these also need to be addressed,’ she added.

The SCSI also pointed out that the Agency was beginning its work later than it would have liked and it called for a national housing and land agency back in 2015. ‘But we will support any cohesive agency that can address the critical shortfall in affordable and social housing which we are experiencing at the moment,’ added Myler.

‘At this stage it’s not clear what exactly is covered by state lands, but we believe the widest definition possible needs to be applied if the Agency is to work effectively. Finally collaboration and engagement with professionals and industry stakeholders should be a core objective for this agency,’ she concluded.