TDs query why housing agency remains without legal powers a year on

TDs query why housing agency remains without legal powers a year on
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien questioned why the agency is not a legal entity.

Almost a year after it was launched by the Government, a new agency designed to use empty landbanks across the State for housing needs remains in a legal limbo without powers.

TDs have also questioned why there are limited, specific cost-rental and affordable purchase plans to build homes for state agencies despite the severe housing crisis.

The Oireachtas housing committee was told the Land Development Agency (LDA) — which was launched with much fanfare by the Government last September — was still not a legal entity.

Furthermore, no lands have been transferred to the agency, whose role is to ensure idle sites are used for housing needs.

The Housing Agency confirmed this to the committee. Its head of housing delivery, Jim Baneham, told TDs there was a precedence for this.

Mr Baneham added that it would be a number of months before the agency is given formal powers.

But Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien questioned why the agency is not a legal entity. Furthermore, he told the committee that state bodies, such as the Housing Agency, were engaging with the LDA even though it was not enshrined in legislation.

The government originally launched the LDA in September 2018, saying it would get €1.2bn to build 150,000 homes over the next 20 years. It is intended that it will use State lands, including from empty health, rail and bus sites, to build the homes while also taking over private lands.

Officials with the Housing Agency and the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) were also quizzed over delays and problems with cost-rental and affordable purchase housing schemes.

The NDFA’s Paul O’Neill confirmed that local authorities were individually deciding levels for affordable housing and whether these would be set by construction costs.

Mr Baneham also admitted that regulations for affordable housing had yet to be drafted, but said there would be differing models used by individual local authorities.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett criticised delays and bureaucracy surrounding work on these sites, including in areas under Dun Laoghaire council.

“I find all this stuff unbelievable. Look at Shanganagh. Where the hell are all the houses? I can’t figure out what the problem is with people screaming for homes for five years,” he said.

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