Social housing network urges use of 700 state land banks

A social housing campaign group has urged the Government to use up to 700 state-owned land banks to build tens of thousands of new homes in a bid to tackle the surging property crisis.

Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) president Justin O’Brien made the call as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said he was open to giving consideration to credit unions financing social housing developments.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner at the ICSH’s annual general meeting, Mr O’Brien said that while the political focus on a series of potential ways to address the housing crisis is welcome, a key option is failing to be properly prioritised.

Since the start of the economic crisis almost a decade ago, he said, local authorities across the country have been in possession of up to 700 land banks whose planned use had fallen through.

While land banks account for approximately 1,700 hectares, they have been lying idle due to a series of issues affecting the individual sites.

Mr O’Brien said the sites are in the possession of State bodies across the country. He said if they were used for social housing, tens of thousands of new homes could come on stream within two years, significantly reducing the housing crisis.

“We have called for that to be a priority,” he said. “The land was promised previously in the social housing plan of 2015 which said sites would be assessed and identified and then made available.

“But the site assembly was only completed in the last six weeks, so now the next stage is to have an active land management plan for those sites.”

Mr O’Brien said the use of the land has been “slower than we wanted it to be”.

The comment came as Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen said a Government “legislative blunder” in its Planning Act means hundreds of new homes will be delayed for a number of years and Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said tax policy is making the housing crisis worse.

The issue of credit unions potentially financing social housing developments will be discussed by the Oireachtas housing committee this morning during a meeting with the Irish League of Credit Unions and the Housing Supply Alliance.

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