Ministers defend new housing agency

The Government’s new housing agency will not become another Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), ministers have insisted.

The DDDA was engulfed in controversy a decade ago over the ill-fated purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend for €412m in 2006, only for it to be valued at €45m in 2010.

The DDDA too has been the subject of several investigations by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.

Since the Irish Examiner reported on Tuesday that the Cabinet is set to approve the new National Regeneration and Development Agency (NRDA), concern has been expressed that the mistakes of the past will be repeated.

Under the plans, the NRDA will have the powers to compulsory purchase public and private lands, deemed essential to a scheme to rejuvenate an area.

The new agency will lead the redevelopments of neglected sites in cities and towns across the country. Its wideranging powers will ensure it can move quickly and overcome current planning obstacles and delays.

Speaking to this paper, ministers have said that the mistakes of the DDDA will not be repeated.

“There was a lot of good that happened in the DDDA but of course its failures were significant,” said one minister.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the model previously used by the DDDA “before it lost the run of itself” is the preferred model for the NRDA.

The Cabinet yesterday was briefed on details of the NRDA ahead of a formal decision to approve it next week.

Opposition TDs have expressed concern at what is proposed.

Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the new agency is “not credible” and an “admission of a crazy Government policy that has promoted property speculation and the housing crisis”.

He said: “As everyone knows, we have a massive housing crisis which is only getting worse because of Government policy. The announcement of the NRDA is simply not credible and too little too late. Now the Government is setting up the NRDA which conceivably might buy land and property off the very people who were sold Nama assets.

“The setting up of this entity is a blatant admission of the total Government failure regarding the provision of public and affordable housing,” he said.

The new agency has been given a broad welcome from developers who have said dealing with the lack of supply is the key issue.

Cork developer Michael O’Flynn has said the NRDA is a positive proposal from the Government.

“I think this is good news. I think we need an agency that has teeth to do things. We don’t have enough land zoned for development where people want to live. If this agency facilitates development where people want to live, then it is good news.”

Mr O’Flynn said as a country we have fallen way behind in the provision of housing and said developers should not be sitting on land.

“If their land is compulsory purchase-ordered because they won’t apply for planning, then I think that is fair game,” he said.



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