Cllr Ronan Moore of the Social Democrats has called on fellow Meath councillors to support his upcoming motion to reject the Land Development Agency Bill being proposed by the Government.

Cllr Moore has branded the Bill “a further erosion of local democracy” and the role of local representatives tasked with protecting public land, stating that it does more to support developers than it does to reduce the cost of housing.

Cllr Moore commented:

“Established in 2018 by then Fine Gael Government, the LDA was created to increase the State’s output of social and affordable housing. As a party, the Social Democrats see increased State engagement in the provision of affordable and social housing as worthwhile. Indeed, the master planning of public land and increasing the amount public land banks is what this agency, in our view, should be focused on. However, this new Bill significantly changes its role and remit.

“The Bill’s focus is on taking land banks that already exist and developing them. While the master planning element of this is welcome, if it is not replacing public land then a consistent pipeline of social and affordable housing cannot happen. In that sense, it lacks the long-term strategic planning that should be its greatest strength. Public land will be diminished over time in contrast to councils that try to replenish their land banks.

“Worryingly, the requirements of the Bill are that LDA developments consist of 50% affordable housing, but it does not specify what that other 50% should be. This suggests that the LDA is likely to start producing private housing on public land. A Government plan to sell homes at full market prices on public land is a slap in the face to the thousands of people currently locked out of buying their own home.”

Cllr Moore also warned how the Government’s legislation further undermines local democracy, stating:

“Section 52 of the Bill allows the power for any public land to be given to the LDA without the council or councillors having any say. Councillors are tasked with protecting public land and ensuring that developments such as affordable housing are actually affordable. In this Bill, the Government intends to bypass councillors and allow the transfer of public lands for the development of housing, including at full market prices. Under these proposals local councillors will be unable to prevent the LDA building private homes at full market prices on public land.

“Disturbingly, the LDA has no requirement to give the land back. For instance, if after a ‘desktop-exercise’ scenario the LDA believes the land makes sense on paper but cannot find a workable proposal, it can then sell the land on to a third/private party. This illustrates why we need more public scrutiny and accountability of the LDA – not less.”

Cllr Moore concluded:

“Since submitting my motion, the Local Authority Members’ Association has emailed all councillors calling on all members of LAMA to apolitically join together to block this Bill from seeing the light of day. As a result, I hope that my fellow elected representatives from across the political spectrum will support this motion and send a clear message to Government that the State must take a proactive role in the building of quality social and affordable homes up and down the country with the input of local councillors. That is the only way this housing crisis will be solved.”

March 1, 2021

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