Letter | LDA Bill is a Trojan horse for the pillaging of the public land bank

galway daily news letter people before profit adrian curran
– Adrian Curran
People Before Profit Galway local area representative

The passing of the Land Development Agency (LDA) Bill would herald the wholesale pillaging of the public land banks by profit hungry developers and investors.

The Bill will allow for the new agency to take over public land from local authorities and all other public bodies in the state – land that should be used wholly for social and genuinely affordable housing, and instead develop 50% or more of each site for private housing, with no minimum percentage requirement for affordable housing or social housing.

Hundreds of previously publicly owned sites will all be parceled up as Designated Activity Companies (DAC’s), allowed to enter into arrangements with ‘investment vehicles’ and ‘third parties’.

The DAC’s will not be subject to any democratic oversight, will not be subject to Freedom of Information and will be insulated from detailed scrutiny by ‘commercial sensitivity’ provisions.

This is likely to affect public lands in Galway, such as those around Sandy Road, Dyke Road, Ceannt Station and Nuns Island.

These lands must be used to provide social and genuinely affordable housing in recognition of the housing emergency we face in Galway.

The Bill explicitly links the undefined proportion of ‘affordable’ housing on each site to market prices and conditions, guaranteeing that the housing will remain completely unaffordable for those on low and middle incomes in many parts of the country, particularly those areas where the housing crisis is most severe like Galway.

The Bill allows the LDA to dispose of lands without any democratic input and to take over the currently democratic local authority function of drafting planning schemes.

The Bill barely mentions social housing, there is no minimum social housing requirement and social housing provision is not mentioned at all in the ‘Functions of the Agency’ section of the Bill.

The Bill instead refers to ‘cost rental’ provision but again states explicitly that rents, alongside house prices on the sites, will be linked to market conditions with ‘different prices … relating to different geographical or administrative areas’.

The only hope of social housing offered in the Bill on LDA on sites will be through Part V (10% obligation) which currently applies to private developments, but even this obligation can be avoided by the developer paying a sum to the council in lieu.

This Bill is the state effectively abandoning traditional council housing and washing its hands of any responsibility for the delivery of housing that is accessible and affordable both to those on the housing list and those that cannot afford their own home at market prices.

This legislation will actively facilitate a heist of huge swathes of the public land bank – another NAMA just waiting to happen. It is quite clearly the government giving carte blanche to developers and property investors to pillage the state’s land banks while pretending to facilitate the provision of housing for the public good.

The promise of affordable housing is a joke. The Bill defines affordable as ‘below market price’ but gives no guarantee as to how much below these unaffordable prices this will be and states clearly that market prices and rents will be the starting point, rather than income and ability to pay, as is the case with traditional public housing.

It is clear that these prices will not be affordable as current market prices and rents are running at utterly extortionate levels, far out of the reach of those on low and middle incomes.

A small and undefined reduction on market prices will be meaningless for the vast majority of working people.

People Before Profit will fight tooth and nail to oppose this rotten Bill and for the provision of social and genuinely affordable housing on public land in Galway and around the country.