Social Democrats councillors in Kildare have expressed concern over a proposed Government Bill that will remove the right of local elected representatives to vote on the sale of public land to the Land Development Agency.

The LDA has been created to increase the State’s output of social and affordable housing. However, Cllr Nuala Killeen has warned against the erosion of local democracy if councillors lose oversight of the process.

Councillor Killeen said:

“The LDA must deliver realistically affordable housing for families across the county. The core objective of the Land Development Agency must be to build houses at prices that people can afford. But the Government’s 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 and renting their own home.”

Cllr Chris Pender also voiced concerns about the Government’s legislation to bypass councillors’ votes on such developments.

He said:

“Councillors are tasked with protecting public land and ensuring developments such as affordable housing are actually affordable. Instead, the Government intends to bypass local councillors and allow the transfer of public lands for the development of housing. Under these proposals, local councillors will be unable to prevent the LDA building private homes at full market prices on public land. We need more public scrutiny and accountability of the LDA, not less.

“The cost of housing is having a crippling effect on people. 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.

“It doesn’t just completely undermine democracy; it forces Kildare County Council to dispose of land to the LDA to deliver unaffordable, open market price private homes on public land – and we’ve all seen where an approach supporting developers has landed us. Now is the time to fund and resource our local authorities to build public housing on public land that is both social and affordable. Now more than ever, we need to be building sustainable communities.”

Cllr Aidan Farrelly questioned the motivation for publishing the Bill, rejecting claims that it would accelerate the process, clear blockages and drive development.

He stated:

“In Kildare, we have been left powerless and at the whim of private developers and An Bord Pleanála through the Strategic Housing Development scheme, which again allows local authorities to be bypassed.

“SHDs were brought in alongside similar claims of speeding up housing delivery, but in doing so have in some cases ignored Local and County Development Plans, local needs and service provision. This is another questionable move to disempower elected representatives, and in doing so the constituents they represent.”

February 8, 2021

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