Land Development Agency Bill 2021: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, are related and amendments Nos. 2 to 13, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 1. Amendments Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, lines 5 to 19, to delete line 5 down to and including "price" in line 19 and substitute the following:

"An Act to regulate relevant public and relevant private land in order to increase the amount of land available for the provision of public and genuinely affordable housing; for that housing to address deficiencies in the stock of public and affordable housing; for the land to be developed in consultation with communities; for public services and amenities to be developed at the same time as the public and affordable housing; for that public and affordable housing to be made available to people on a broad range of incomes".

I will speak to amendments Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive.

The Deputy might also speak to amendment No. 13, which is mine.

I will let the Minister make the case for that one. I will speak to the amendments tabled by People Before Profit. They relate to the Title of the Bill and, essentially, the setting out of its purposes and the purpose of the Land Development Agency, LDA. In some ways, the amendments in this group are a summary of many of the problems we have with the Government's plan for the LDA and what it should do. I will try to summarise them briefly.

The LDA should be an agency that assembles land and, in particular, land that might be hoarded or speculated upon by private owners and developers or property that is being sat on that could be used, if suitable, for the housing we need to address the dire housing crisis. That is what the LDA should be. Its sole purpose should be to try to assemble land that may be in the ownership of other State agencies for the purposes of delivering public and affordable housing. A failure to do this is the reason for the dire housing and homelessness crisis.

The LDA's purpose, as set out in this Bill, amounts to a means through which private finance, developers and property investment entities and so on will gain access to the entire public land bank. The latter should be used to deliver public and affordable housing but will instead be used to make profit for some of those interests. This, in turn, will affect the ability of the Government to use the public land bank to deliver public housing of the scale we need and to ensure that it is genuinely affordable instead of the price being set by private developers or financial interests which now might gain access to that land bank.

In the Title to the Bill, there are references to designated activity companies, DACs, and the Bill will allow the public land bank to be parcelled into companies that will be taken from local authority control and these will, in effect, control the land bank and dictate what is done with it. There are also references in the Title to market price with respect to the delivery of affordable housing. I see the Minister shaking his head because the term has been changed with a reference to the affordable housing legislation. When we cross-check the new wording inserted via the Minister's amendment and the affordable housing legislation, we can see it does not set out in any clear terms how it can be guaranteed that the public land bank will be used to deliver genuinely affordable housing. It will all be prescribed by the Minister and there are also references to the market. This is the fundamental problem.

In the amendments we have tabled, we are seeking to ensure that the LDA will only be about the provision of public and affordable housing. We also want to ensure that affordable housing will always remain affordable. We will explain later how that should be done but, essentially, we suggest that a property cannot be sold to the market but rather that it must be sold to local authorities. The proportion of affordable and public housing should be decided by local authorities and there should be public consultation on that. The land should not be parcelled up for use by DACs, it should remain in the hands of the local authorities.

Our amendments rule out the use of public private partnerships, thus protecting the public land bank from the invasion of private investment funds, speculators and so on that would drive up the price of the affordable housing. Such partnerships might privatise potentially significant parts of the public land bank and make it almost certain that much of the supposedly affordable housing would be unaffordable. The Minister has infamously spoken about affordable housing in certain parts of the country, notably in Dublin, reaching a ceiling of €450,000 and €400,000 and €350,000 in other areas.

That is not affordable at all for the vast majority of people. We do not want private finance or private investors to have anything whatsoever to do with setting the amount of public and affordable housing, the price of the affordable housing or the rents in the cost-rental housing. We want stripped out of both Bills any references to the benchmarking of affordability against market conditions or the diktats of private finance.

That is the summary of the first 12 of 63 amendments we have tabled to the Bill. The broad thrust is very simple. Keep the public land bank public, use the public land bank to deliver public and genuinely affordable housing and have no privatisation whatsoever of the public land bank, which we believe the Government's Bill in its current form will facilitate.

I am very glad of the opportunity to speak on the Land Development Agency Bill 2021. This is terribly important work. It is also terribly important that we strike a balance. On a personal basis, Deputy Boyd Barrett knows that I like him as a person, and he always cheers me up when we meet each other, but I have to say I would hate to rely on him to build even a henhouse. If we were relying on him, the henhouse would never get built. I do not like to personalise but while a lot of what Deputy Boyd Barrett has said is correct and right, we cannot have the demonising in this House of the whole public-private issue as if there is something wrong with developers, those who want to build housing and those who want to work in that sector because that is not the case.

What I dearly want to see for our publicly-owned land is that, in as big a way as possible, the Government, the Department and local authorities would build affordable housing to try to address the massive housing need we have.

I attended a very important meeting yesterday where projected statistics for the whole population for the next 12 months, two years, three years and ten years were looked at very closely and analysed. When I studied this to understand it and get it into my head the enormity of the problem facing us, I have to be honest that the projected need for housing frightened me.

I do not doubt that Deputy Boyd Barrett is 100% passionate about what he is saying. He is right in his own mind about what he is saying but it seems to be all anti private involvement in anything and that we should be doing it. The message I have is that we are incapable of doing it. I would love if we were able to do it. I would be so proud. I am not blaming the Minister, as he knows, when I say this. It does not matter if it was this Minister in this Government, the previous Government, the one before that, or the Government of ten or 20 years ago. We must have public and private working together.

Deputy Boyd Barrett is right about certain things but it must be remembered that people have to make a profit. There has to be a profit margin made in anything a person does in life. If you buy a cow and want to keep it for 12 months, the cow has to have a calf, must produce milk and you have to make money, even if it is a marginal amount because there are costs to be met. It is the same for employers who are involved in delivering housing. They have to provide the housing and it has to be sold at an affordable price. I could not agree more. When I see the exorbitant prices of property and the enormous rents being charged in certain parts of the country, my goodness, we have to do something to try to rein this in and bring control to the situation.

Does the Deputy realise what is happening tomorrow? Does he know about tomorrow? Maybe he would not mind too much about it. Timber prices are going up 10%, 15% and 17% tomorrow. Does the Deputy realise that in the past 12 months alone, the prices of steel and timber have gone up enormously? One cannot pull that money out of the sky. It is not Monopoly money; it is real money. This is what is affecting the price of housing so detrimentally, whether it is in the private market, the public market or whatever market. That is the reality. The costs of one metre of concrete and concrete blocks have gone up, as has the price of steel. Does the Deputy realise that?

These are the considerations we must take on board in a practical and common-sense way, rather than demonising all the time and shout about there being absolutely no private involvement and about not letting these people come in on our land. I would love to see that happening and I would love it if we could do it all ourselves, but we cannot. We must work together and try to ensure that, at the end of the day, we are providing the maximum amount of properties, available at affordable money to our young families to get them off the housing waiting lists. Every day of the week, I deal with the housing list in Kerry. I would dearly like to see our local authority starting to build single rural cottages, schemes of houses like it used to do long ago when John O'Donoghue from Farranfore would go into a field on behalf of the council and set out a housing development, and then go in to build five, ten, 20, 30, 40 or 60 houses. Was that not great work? There is not enough of that happening now. We must ensure that if we cannot do it ourselves, we bring brains, skill and ability together in conjunction and to partner up, to try to ensure we provide the housing one way or another in the best and most affordable way we can.

We have had excellent people working in our local authority in Kerry over the years. It is not that we do not have the people now - we do - but we must pool our resources. Rather than criticising the Minister in this House and saying, "Damnation on you and all that is there with you", it should be the exact opposite. We should be saying to the Minister that there is a very serious problem with housing in this country. Rather than the Opposition knocking that and fighting about it, we should be asking how can we collectively put our shoulders to the wheel and work together to ensure the money is made available and we can do this in an affordable way. There seems, however, to be very little we can do about the massive increases in the costs of raw materials. It is a worldwide issue at the moment. The prices for materials have gone up dramatically in the last 12 months. This is a massive problem.

There is a responsibility on every one of us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Minister and the Department, not knocking but working together in trying to address the problem. We must use our imaginations and the brains that God gave us to try to work together in a positive way to address the issue.

The Green Party firmly believes that the primary remit of the Land Development Agency should be to utilise public land for 100% public housing. This would tackle the current affordability crisis by increasing the provision of affordable housing for purchase and rent.

When we were negotiating the programme for Government last year the LDA was set to provide 60% private housing on public land. Today, on foot of my amendments to the Bill, the Minister has agreed to ensure that all housing in Dublin and Cork will be 100% public, including cost-rental, social and affordable homes. The provision of public housing on public land will assist in increasing the number of cost-rental units the State will provide. In turn, this will eventually lower rental costs and make homes affordable to those who are currently locked out of the property market, paying exorbitant rents or living at home. I welcome the Minister's commitment to increase the provision of public housing to 100% in Dublin and Cork.

I support this group of amendments. A grouping list has not been circulated. Not that it is essential but if there is one that could be made available to members, it would be of great help.

One of the perplexing things about the Land Development Agency is why, under its Fine Gael proposition and now under the proposal in front of us from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, it is proposed in the way that it is. There is no doubt we need public agencies to build increasing numbers of social and affordable homes. Nobody in the House disagrees with any of this. The difficulty, of course, is we already have many of these agencies. There are more than 30 local authorities, many of which, for decades, had a sterling track record in delivering large volumes of very good quality homes. The difficulty is that since the 1990s under Fianna Fáil-led Governments, then under Fine Gael and Labour Party Governments, then under Fine Gael and Green Party Governments and now under a Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party Government, those local authorities have been asset-stripped. They have been stripped of staff and money and, crucially, of the authority to deliver the homes working people need. In fact, when Fine Gael was last considering how to fix the housing crisis, rather than proposing a land development agency, which is a State agency that would take up to five years to build any homes, what it should have done was resourced with finance and staff our local authorities to build the tens of thousands of social and affordable homes for working families. Fine Gael's original proposition was a very bad one. It wanted to have large volumes of new homes but it did not want to pay for them. It had the idea of leveraging, as Deputy Duffy said, up to 60% of the homes delivered on public land to the private sector to ensure 10% social and 30% affordable housing. Of course, this produced a huge backlash and, in fairness to the current Minister, he was very critical, as were those of us in opposition, of that particular usage because at a time when public land is so scarce and the need for social and affordable housing is so great there should of course be 100% affordable housing on public land.

The current version of the Bill has moved some way and I want to acknowledge a number of changes the Minister has made to the original draft of the Bill and during the course of the Bill's passage through the House that have improved it somewhat. However, it still contains the fatal flaw that, notwithstanding the fact the Minister has introduced an amendment that allows him to set up to 80% of a development as social and affordable housing - and I presume the remaining 20% would be covered by Part V - it does not guarantee it. It is not the case, contrary to what Deputy Duffy said, that the Bill guarantees all homes on public land in Dublin and Cork would be affordable. That would be at the discretion of the Minister. Yes, it is better that the Minister can designate up to 100% than up to 50%. However, if he chooses not to do so and decides, for example, that it will not be 100% on the Central Mental Hospital site in Dundrum, there is nothing anybody in the House can do about it. Likewise, for example, because the power of local authorities and elected members to determine what happens on their land is being taken away by the Bill, if the Minister decides, for example, in direct opposition to the democratic will of a majority of councillors on Dublin City Council, to transfer the Oscar Traynor Road site to the LDA, there is no guarantee we will not revert to the Glenveagh deal that would have seen 50% of the homes sold at unaffordable open market prices of more than €400,000.

My fundamental objection to the Bill, and the reason I support this list of amendments, is not that I do not want public homes built on public land. I do. However, I believe the best agency to do this is our local authorities, led by local authority councillors supported by approved housing bodies and community housing trusts.

I will directly respond to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, because I absolutely agree with one of his central points. Every home built in the State today is built by a private build contractor, whether it is a social home, an affordable home or a private home. Certainly on my side of the House there is nobody objecting to this. In fact, the only way we will get large volumes of homes built is if we release public land, with local authorities or the approved housing bodies being the developers, and employ as many of those building contractors as possible to build as many good quality homes as possible at the fastest possible rate.

What I understand Deputy Boyd Barrett is objecting to, and I share his objection, is not to individual tradespeople being employed in those sites. It is to when land is transferred or the Land Development Agency enters into partnership with private developers, which is a very different thing from a private building contractor, as I am sure the good Deputy from Kerry knows. When a private developer is brought onto the pitch it changes the overall financing of the project and, therefore, the development costs go up. This means the rent and the purchase prices are also higher for working families, whether in Kerry, Dún Laoghaire, Rathdown or my constituency of Dublin Mid-West.

What many of us are essentially saying is that where we have public land it should be developed in the first instance by public authorities, local authorities, approved housing bodies and community housing trusts. They should, of course, employ tradespeople and building contractors to build those homes, although some of us would like to see a return, at least in some local authorities, to direct build by councils. While we are arguing for this, we will have the private building contractors build as many of the homes as possible.

The great tragedy of using the particular model the LDA will use is that the rents will be too high. I fear the house prices will also be too high. Unlike local authorities and approved housing bodies, where the rents that will be charged or the house prices will be on a full cost recovery basis, the LDA will operate like a commercial entity. I accept it is publicly owned but it will be like a commercial entity.

The Minister has made positive amendments to the legislation so the LDA and all of its designated activity company subsidiaries will be fully covered by freedom of information. I presume the Minister will give us an update later on what is happening with the lobby register, and we expect the LDA's officials will become designated officials under the lobby register legislation. However, because it is a designated activity company it will be able to conceal its activities behind the smokescreen of commercial sensitivity and we will not get the same opportunity to scrutinise it as other bodies.

I support the amendments because I want to see the maximum volume of social and affordable homes delivered on public land but at genuinely affordable prices and the Bill does not provide for this.

I will speak in support of the amendments. I start with the point on the delivery of homes on public lands, who does it and whether private builders are involved. There is a key distinction that needs to be made and Deputy Ó Broin has made it. In terms of delivering homes, there is a huge difference between contracting tradesmen and private builders and having a private developer leading the project. There is a difference in cost to this. If private developers are involved, they have higher financing costs than are available to the State or to not-for-profit bodies borrowing through State or European funding mechanisms. This pushes up the cost of delivery, which means the price of the affordable purchase, or the rent if it is cost rental, will be more expensive at the end when someone is coming to buy or to rent.

If we look at the Ó Cualann model, and I have referenced it often in the Dáil, we see two-bedroom apartments available in Dun Emer in Lusk for approximately €166,000 and three-bedroom semi-detached homes being available at €258,000. They are being built by private builders and private contractors but Ó Cualann, a not-for-profit housing co-operative, is the developer. It has a margin that it takes to reinvest in future schemes but it is not taking the type of profit margins from it that a private developer would. This makes a huge difference to the overall delivery cost because its aim is to deliver homes at the most affordable amount it can achieve. This is what it is trying to do rather than private developers trying to maximise their returns and profits, which is their right and business.

Private developers play a huge role in housing delivery in Ireland and will continue to do so. The question here is whether we can maximise the amount of affordable, social and cost-rental homes on public land. This is the question. It is true that progress is being made on this. The Bill is much better than previous proposals from the previous Fine Gael-led Government. It is welcome that the Minister is speaking about, and giving commitments to, 100% social, affordable and cost-rental housing on public lands in Dublin and Cork. The Bill does not guarantee this. It allows for it. It does not prohibit it but it does not guarantee it. If the Minister changes his mind, there is a different Minister in office, different circumstances are cited or agreement on financing is not reached at government level, the Bill allows for 40% of homes on public lands to be sold at full market cost.

Why would we do that at any time, especially in the middle of a housing and affordability crisis? Why are we presented with a Bill that allows for that, notwithstanding the improvements that have been made? I do not think it makes sense that the Bill allows for that.

I have another concern regarding the delivery of affordable housing under this Bill. The vision given so far of affordable homes that will be delivered means many of them could be set at a price beyond the reach of people on average incomes. There is no definition of affordability in the Bill or in the Affordable Housing Bill that would set affordable homes within reach of people on average incomes. There is talk of affordable homes but how affordable will these homes be? There will be homes available for people at a discount from full market price, so that will help some, but will there be housing available for people who do not qualify for social housing and have the ability to pay a mortgage up to around €250,000?

There is a significant risk that the cost rental homes mentioned in the Bill will not be delivered at fully cost rental because the Affordable Housing Bill, which is related to this, includes references to equity returns. If there are equity returns on the delivery of cost rental, it is not at cost. It is cost plus equity plus equity returns. The entire point of the Bill should be to ensure there is the maximum amount of affordable, social and cost rental homes delivered on all public lands, rather than some or some parts of public lands. That should be what we are trying to achieve.

The other thing missing is the ability to build up a pipeline of land that could be used to deliver affordable and social homes. The strong compulsory purchase order, CPO, powers that should be in this Bill are not there and it is a major weakness. If the Land Development Agency is not being set up to buy land at existing land-use value before it is rezoned to create and capture the value of land rezoning to help deliver infrastructure and housing affordability, then what is the agency about? Is it not missing a key role in strategic land assembly that should be to the forefront of this? Recent reports from the executive in Meath County Council, for example, have said it is having difficulty buying land that can be used in the future for social and affordable housing because it is competing with developers who are paying higher prices, including for agriculturally zoned land. When the executives of councils and local authorities try to do this, the CPO powers which they lack and which the Land Development Agency will lack mean there is no solution. We should be ensuring that land value capture, which is done well in other countries to deliver affordability and pay for infrastructure, is done by an LDA with CPO powers.

I do not think there is one person in this House who does not want social and affordable houses to be built for people of different generations so they can begin their lives. What I have against the way the LDA is set up is it caters for population centres of 30,000 or more. I was elected in Limerick county and there is not one town in Limerick county with 30,000 people living there. While I welcome any houses coming to Limerick city, Limerick should be treated as a whole. The Land Development Agency is only delivering for cities.

Successive governments for 33 years have promised to invest in infrastructure in County Limerick. I have said on more than one occasion that infrastructure, sewerage systems and adequate water are waiting for investment promised by Minister after Minister. At every election that comes our way, they promise they will put funding into infrastructure. Askeaton is one example that is 33 years waiting for a sewerage system upgrade. Drumcolliher and Hospital are others. A report done during the year showed the biggest polluter in Ireland is a local authority because of the lack of infrastructure and raw sewage being put into the waterways.

The Minister is capable in the job he is in and I have faith in him. However, this does not deliver outside population centres of 30,000 or more. It does not deliver for the people of County Limerick. The Minister's party has been in government going back decades and still has not delivered on promises through all the elections to put in infrastructure and give equality to the people in cities, towns, villages and rural areas. That would mean people could live in local areas, whether towns, villages or rural areas, and they would support locally. We would have our own infrastructure and it would bring businesses to our areas to support locally. How can anyone be expected to open a business in an area where they are told there is a cap? People are told: "You have what you have now and what infrastructure you have we are going to upgrade but that it will not mean you will have extra houses". They are told the infrastructure will be upgraded it so it does not pollute the area as much. Any businessperson will say that to get people into an area and to support people and businesses in the area, basic infrastructure is needed. Limerick has been crying out for investment in infrastructure for 30 or 40 years and it has been failed by governments.

Limerick 2030 was set up. I was on the board before being elected here and now my brother John is on it. There are executives from Limerick City and County council and local councillors from around Limerick county and city on it. They are trying to deliver for the people of Limerick city and county. Unless the LDA works with the likes of the local authority and Limerick 2030, Limerick county will not get investment. Traditionally, Deputies have been promised that but now we know that, even with the LDA, the Government will not invest in our areas. When people want to build their own houses, put in infrastructure, septic tanks and water supply, the Government votes against amendments for that. It will not even allow people build in their own areas or put in infrastructure to support those areas. This Bill needs to make sure the number goes down to 1,500 or lower to ensure the LDA covers city and county. It is called equality. Not everyone wants to live in the city. I am a culchie and proud of it. That is where I grew up and what I support. I support locally.

I have been listening to Deputies talk about developers and contractors. I have been a building contractor all my life. I have been in the building trade since I was 15 years of age. I have seen all the different elements of building and how difficult a job it is. The price of housing has increased by €40 per square foot in the past 12 months. While it is a global issue, the Government could have helped by issuing felling licences and easing restrictions at ports so that we could bring in material and prevent extra costs. The price of a house has been added to by €40 per square foot, yet the Government talks about social and affordable housing. The increase means that the price of public sites, which would normally be approximately €17,000 per service unit on a housing estate, has jumped to approximately €27,000 per service unit. There is nothing affordable about that.

I ask the Minister to consider the counties and dropping the population threshold from 30,000 people to 1,500 people to ensure that houses are built in rural areas and everyone can have equality and avail of social and affordable housing. The councils in our areas cannot build houses at the moment. They need contractors to do that, but there are no contractors. We need help, investment and infrastructure to do this work.

I wish to speak against this group of amendments. There is a fundamental difference between the Opposition and the Government in how we want to deliver homes and what we want the LDA to do. It is clear from Committee Stage that those in opposition want it to be a land amalgamation agency and local authorities to then construct homes on that land. The Government wants all parts of the State firing on all cylinders. Using the Affordable Housing Bill, we want to ensure that councils build social housing and housing for affordable rental and affordable purchase on council land. We want the LDA to build social housing and housing for affordable rental and affordable purchase on its public land. We want approved housing bodies to build social housing and housing for affordable rental and affordable purchase. We want every arm of the State building and developing homes for people, including families. We do not want a quango that amalgamates land. We want an agency that delivers homes. That is a fundamental and important policy difference between the two parts of the House.

I will also speak against these amendments because of an attempt to put in place the narrative that this Government is somehow trying to siphon off homes to developers so that we can fleece the people of Ireland. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked us why we would do that, but I will put the question back to him - why would we do that? The Minister has been clear from the beginning that there has been no attempt to do that. His amendments ensure that in places like Dublin and Cork, we have 100% public housing on public land. They give a legislative basis to what we have talked about, called for, marched for and voted in councils for. Here we are with a Bill that allows for 100% public housing on public land.

This happened because the people of Ireland voted for parties that wanted to ensure a change in the direction of housing policy. It happened because those parties came together to compromise, put together a programme for Government, form a Government and then work on, amend and perfect legislation to deliver for the people who voted for them as well as those who did not. To the people who voted for me, the Minister, Deputy Duffy, Deputy Higgins, Senator Cummins, Senator Fitzpatrick and the many other Members who have worked on this Bill, I say that their vote in February of last year has ensured a change in the direction of housing policy so that we have 100% public housing on public land in those places where it is needed. That is delivering. That is the difference between the Opposition and the Government in this regard. We have a real ambition to deliver homes for people. It is not about siphoning off land to developers. In the words of the Opposition, why would we do that? Instead, it is an attempt by the Minister to ensure that we can deliver homes for people.

The Bill has been described as the Minister taking a second-hand car and giving it a coat of paint. I have heard Deputies in the House acknowledge the changes that he has made to the Bill. Last week, however, Opposition Deputy after Opposition Deputy stood up for his or her little one-minute speaking slot on the extension of tenancy protections and said that this Government was doing nothing for housing. It is time to admit that in the space of 12 months, we have passed substantial legislation on housing and put in place significant tools that will shape public housing policy for the next 30 years. We have put in place tools that councils can use to build affordable homes and mixed communities on their lands. The LDA, approved housing bodies and organisations like Ó Cualann can do the same. It is important that we acknowledge this, as these measures will take some time before they are delivered and the public has to know that a real change was delivered after the message sent at the general election. We are being honest by saying that it will take some time to build the homes because we know that building homes takes time.

I look forward to seeing project after project in my area. I am referring to sites in Kildonan, the multiple sites in Ballymun that make up the Ballymun local area plan, and sites in Whitehall and on Oscar Traynor Road. I am looking forward to seeing homes that people can afford. I am looking forward to people coming to my office and being able to ask me how to apply for the new homes that the Minister, Fianna Fáil and this Government are building. That will be the proof of the pudding.

We have a long way to go. We must ensure that the review of the national development plan reflects the ambition of this Bill, that there is significant investment in housing and that we put our money where our mouth is. We must ensure that councils across the country grab the Bill's ambition and do not allow council officials to delay it. Councillors must drive the delivery of homes, including public housing, and ensure that the sites their councils own are turned from empty sites, which the Minister and I visited many times while Fianna Fáil was in opposition, into building sites and then into communities where people live. We must ensure that council officials realise that there has been a change and that the delivery of housing for affordable purchase has to be the core of what they do. I join my colleagues in saying that local authorities should publish targets for the delivery of housing for affordable purchase on all of their sites.

Communities like Ballymun and Finglas have been let down by previous housing policies because we have not put in place infrastructure, services or mixed income and mixed tenure housing. We must ensure that the projects we deliver benefit these communities. I look forward to the end of the strategic housing development, SHD, legislation, as it bypassed communities. I look forward to us making another change in housing policy, thereby recognising the message that we were given by people in February 2020.

Substantial changes and amendments have been acknowledged but equally opposed by the Opposition. There will be substantial delivery of homes for families and young people with real actions and real results.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this important topic. Many Deputies have done a great deal of talking and it is time for action. I appreciate that the Minister is doing his best in the position he now holds and I have confidence that he will continue trying to do that. We disagree about certain matters. I am worried that, down the line, this legislation will erode the powers of elected members and local authorities. I am also worried that the LDA might be accountable to no one.

Publicly owned land should be used 100% for social housing. Making some parts of a development private and others affordable and social will not work.

Each development on public lands should be publicly owned. Houses should be built to be rented. Affordable houses should be built to be sold. If possible, sites should be sold to couples or individuals who want to build a house. If they qualify for social housing, they should be allowed to buy a site. I am very worried about the publicly owned lands we have in Killarney, like the very valuable St. Finan's site. I have been striving for many years to ensure this land is transferred from the HSE back to Kerry County Council, from where it came from in the first place, and that local authority houses would be built on that site. We need them in Killarney.

Builders and developers are doing a great job where they can, but they are up against it at present with the cost of materials, especially timber. If a person is looking for timber for a house in Kerry, there is a six-week waiting time and suppliers will not say how much it will cost until it arrives. At the same time, we cannot fell trees in our forestry. In Ireland, no one can get a felling licence, yet in Germany and other countries, there is no such thing as a felling licence. It is well known that when one plants a forestry, it has to be cut down when it is mature and available. Now we are importing timber.

The regulator we have is against one-off houses, people who are trying to build houses themselves. Those people should be supported in every way. There are several designations preventing them from building at this time. It is difficult to get planning in many parts of County Kerry. That is not right because all people want to do is to put a roof over their heads and make a home. They should get every assistance in doing that from us, as elected Members of the Oireachtas, and from the Department, the Minister, the Government and the local authorities. They are finding it very difficult at present.

We have been told that money is no object, that houses will be built and that there is no problem, yet we have major problems with sewerage infrastructure as there are places with no facilities. There are 32 settlements in Kerry that have no sewerage treatment facility. There are 17 towns and villages waiting for extensions to their plants. People cannot build in the town of Kenmare. They can get planning permission but they cannot build there until the treatment plant is extended. Zoning and dezoning designation is what is happening in Kerry. The local authority members have been told they can increase the amount of land zoned around Killarney, but they must dezone land in places like Rathmore and outside of that area. That is not fair, nor is it right because people want to live in their areas. They are being denied that right by two things - zoning designations and the non-existent sewerage facilities. It is a problem in places like Beaufort which is a large village that could expand but has no treatment plant. There are two housing estates there that are in a terrible state. The local authority has to draw the sewage out of the estates every week and bring it into the Killarney treatment plant. Things like that are happening in Currow. There is no treatment plant in Scartaglen or Asdee. There are honest good hardworking people from those places and they deserve to be able to put a roof over their heads. It is not right, and I appeal to the Minister to deal with that issue. The Government says money is not a problem. It may not be nice to speak about sewage in this House, but if people do not have proper facilities, they cannot build homes. It is very important that we raise this matter.

Small-scale builders and developers are finding it very difficult to continue because of the levies, regulations and VAT. They have all those things to deal with while they have to carry the costs. It is very difficult to get money from the banks. The Minister must consider this issue. They have to carry the cost to the very end because stage payments are not allowed anymore. There are many small-scale builders and developers who are going out of business because they cannot continue. If you have no money, you have no fun. That is the situation with small-scale builders and developers now. They cannot afford to carry the full costs.

Go raibh maith agat a Theachta. Tá an t-am istigh.

The costs are going up all the time. That is what is happening. We must realise this and do something to help those people.

I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak to the amendments before us. I will speak about housing, an issue I have spoken about since 2016. I do not point the finger at the Minister because he has been most helpful with housing issues in west Cork that I have approached him about.

I raise urgent issues which need to be addressed in relation to the provision of homes for young people and people of all ages who call me daily. It was said earlier that it was unfair to say that nothing is being done on housing. I hear about the problems in my constituency clinic. For every ten people who come into me, six of them have housing issues. I know of the upset and torture some people are going through because they cannot get started in life. Some of them cannot get a house or a mortgage. They have a good average job but it is not good enough to get a mortgage. They are then pushed into the trap of having to apply for social housing. They find that social housing is not available. Regarding renting a house, often HAP is not available to them. They are in a trap and they cannot get out of it, and this causes upset and difficulties. There are solutions out there. The Land Development Agency Bill seems to deal with a population of 30,000 or more. That exempts most of my constituency unless we bottle it all together. The Bill must look at areas in my county and others, like Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Bantry, Bandon, Kinsale and areas like those that continue to have a housing crisis.

One good thing I notice about people - they are the people I listen to a lot - is that some of them try to come up with solutions and get over the issues themselves. Many young people come to me to see whether I can help them get planning. Some of them had already applied and had thought it was a fair system. They thought they would get a fair answer but they come up against stumbling blocks. More people come to me before they apply for planning permission. The stumbling blocks that are put before them are terribly unfair. We are pushing people down one road, and that road is social housing. We have a Tánaiste who dreams that he will build 40,000 homes a year. I do not know what side of the bed he got out of that morning when he announced that. RTÉ gave him as much coverage as he wanted for two days to talk about 40,000 homes. When he was in office, he was only able to build a few thousands. All of a sudden, he is dreaming that he can build 40,000. Perhaps he has them in the back of the car and he can open them up. Perhaps they will be built with toy bricks. In reality, that is not going to happen and he has to be honest. He should not put a false belief out there that we are going to get 40,000 homes built. The problem is with the trap this country is in. It will have to keep building and building. It will dream that it will keep building, that there will be cities and skyscrapers built and that people will be living in apartments. Living in an apartment is a terribly difficult life, and I know from looking at some of them around the cities.

A solution to much of this can be found in rural Ireland and it is not being looked at. There is a fear of God out there in case we were to build and start a rural community. A number of years ago, county development plans contained village nuclei. That was when county development plans worked with the people. Now they work against the people. A village nucleus is one where if there were a shop, a pub or a church, planning permission would be allowed around them thereby building a community.

If people mention that now, they are thought to be off their rocker because it is rural Ireland and people cannot build a house in rural Ireland anymore due to all these dreamed-up scenic landscapes and other nonsensical rubbish. It is not architectural or percolation issues, which have to be adhered to, but nonsensical rubbish. That is all it is - some collar-and-tie pencil pusher dreaming up ideas to ensure that nobody gets to live in a rural community and nobody can build a rural community. We have the facilities and the capabilities, be it in west Cork or any other county in Ireland, to help solve, not fully solve, this problem.

There is another issue. In the towns and villages of west Cork there are many derelict houses. There must a serious focus on over-the-shop living or something along that line, with proper funding made available. There are fabulous community centres and massive, brilliant schools in west Cork. There are fabulous facilities in the towns and villages for young people who are struggling to survive in the cities. They could have a good and healthy lifestyle. We blame Covid-19 for not being able to build houses all along. However, it has not happened. I keep referring to the 40,000 houses dream that the Tánaiste woke up to one morning. That is not going to happen either. We know that, and it is scandalous that national broadcasters would give somebody so much air time to talk so much rubbish. Is there nobody there to say: "Hang on a minute, what are you talking about? That is not going to happen and you know it is not going to happen"?

I want to return to the issue of people who look for planning permission. I am very focused on that and I believe it will be the subject of the next big protest that will happen in this country. We are inundated with people in my county who are continually being refused permission. We need to drop this carry-on about having to have a connection to the area. Of course, if somebody is looking for planning permission, the person obviously has to prove he or she has a job there. Surely to God that is good enough to give the person planning permission. The person does not have to be living so many kilometres from the site. The person should not have to prove he or she cannot live there because it is a scenic landscape. We are forcing people into a situation. I see it when I go to clinics in Kinsale, Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry. They are no-go areas for housing. It is a struggle both mentally and physically for people. I have had people crying their eyes out in my office, as I am sure other Deputies have had, asking why I cannot get them a house. I had somebody on the telephone today threatening to put me on the radio because I could not get the person a house. What can I do? I do not have them in the boot of the car. The Tánaiste must have plenty of them, but I do not.

Will the Minister work with the rural communities to create a solution, regardless of whether it is in this legislation or in future legislation, with regard to planning permission and rural living in towns and villages? There is a solution there. It is not a magic wand and it will not cure all, but it is certainly well worth exploring.

I support these amendments. They go to the heart of the issue. I acknowledge that the Minister has moved some way in respect of 100% public homes on public land, but that is not guaranteed. It is as if he is taking baby steps forward. We, and particularly my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, have been putting forward solutions to tackle the housing crisis. In this Bill, it appears that the Minister has taken a small amount of Deputy Ó Broin's proposals on board, but we invite the Minister to look at our strategy because, ultimately, the housing crisis affects every community and we must work together.

I hear talk about local authorities setting targets and local authorities doing more. Let us be very clear here. Previous Ministers and the Department have driven local authorities out of house building by cutting their staff and their funding and by not resourcing them to build homes. Will this Minister commit to giving local authorities funding so they can have their own direct builds? I welcome the fact that local authorities are hiring private developers to build developments, but local authorities are also buying developments that private developers have built separately. There are big issues here. Deputy McAuliffe spoke earlier about infrastructure. We are also looking at the types of houses being built. Are we building houses that are of universal design so they can be used by people with disabilities and older people? Are we building one- and two-bedroom homes? Are we building four- or five-bedroom homes? What we need is a plan. Just using the private sector, which appears to be Fianna Fáil's and Fine Gael's mantra, does not work.

With hindsight, when the Minister and his Fianna Fáil Deputies sit down and consider the four years they supported Fine Gael in government, do they regret allowing Fine Gael to make the housing crisis worse when its Minister was responsible for housing? Deputy McAuliffe and the Minister spoke earlier, but it must be remembered that they supported Fine Gael driving us into the worst housing crisis ever. To explain how bad things are, this week reports have emerged which show that house prices in Munster have risen by 16%. That is under the Minister's watch because it was Fianna Fáil who supported Fine Gael. We hear the Tánaiste talking about building 40,000 houses. He should hang his head in shame. He was the Taoiseach and he did not deliver.

I wish to make a few more points. I want to see local authorities build houses, buy houses and have a combination of direct build and using private developers, but to build the developments that local authorities need, not what private developers want to build. We are committed to having 100% public housing on public lands. That is the fundamental difference between us and what is in this Bill. The Bill does not guarantee that.

The other issue is affordability. When the Government looks at affordability, it looks at a reduction related to the market price. We believe affordability should be based on income and what people can afford to pay, not inflated market prices to tell us what the reduction should be and deem that affordable. That is not affordable. When I was a member of Cork City Council, I, other Sinn Féin councillors, Independent councillors and councillors from left-wing parties put forward solutions to resolve the housing crisis in Cork. As I stand here speaking on housing, I can say that the housing crisis has never been worse than it is tonight. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been in government for decades and they must accept responsibility for that.

A lady contacted me yesterday. She and her partner have been on the social housing list for eight and a half years. She was taken off the housing list this week because she is over the income threshold. Her partner is in the Defence Forces. She works for 12 hours per week. How is it possible under this Government that a family with one full-time income cannot qualify for social housing? They cannot get a mortgage from the banks. This family is now left in limbo. If their housing assistance payment, HAP, is cut off, and it is currently under appeal, they will have to come up with a rent payment of €1,400 per month. I was discussing with the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, the salaries and income of members of the Defence Forces. There is no way an ordinary member of the Defence Forces could come up with €1,400 per month for rent. That is under the Government's watch as well.

We want solutions. We recognise that the Minister has taken baby steps forward here, but it must be much more dynamic. We need to look further and deeper to see how we can solve the housing crisis. I will leave the Minister with three simple things if he really wishes to solve the housing crisis as quickly as possible.

What are we doing with derelict sites? Tens of thousands of houses and sites are lying idle throughout the country and we are not tackling them. There are 90,000 vacant properties not being tackled. Where is the money required for the local authorities to compulsorily purchase these properties and to take the owners and landlords of derelict buildings and vacant sites to task? If the Minister is serious, he will fund the local authorities to do this.

I am also glad to be able to address these amendments. There is an ideological argument here about parties on the left and on the right. The sad part about all this, however, is that there is a logjam in the delivery of housing. Many parties have been involved. When the Labour Party was in government, Deputy Kelly was the Minister responsible and he promised us more houses. I told him then that he would not build a henhouse from Toomevara to Carrick-on-Suir, and he did not. We must get real here. I am not in favour of the Land Development Agency because we have had a bad experience with these big agencies. We previously had the National Roads Authority, NRA, for instance, which is now Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII. It is now necessary almost to get permission to pick a blackberry briar away from a sign. It is just not possible to do it because these agencies are a law unto themselves. I said many times, when Fred Barry was there, that we were able to decommission the IRA but we could not decommission the NRA. Now, we have TII. It is just impossible.

We also have the new Office of the Planning Regulator. Why do we need that? It is another person with a great deal of experience in planning, that is true. I am sure he has an office in Dublin and perhaps a regional one as well, with brass plates on the door, fancy furniture and a team around him. Our group of rural Independents will not meet him, but he wants to make himself feel relevant. Big is not better, and an example of that is Irish Water. When we had the group water schemes, the good men and women and council workers dug out those schemes with picks and shovels. I remember going to help them out myself when I was a young man with a JCB, and such a machine was alien to them. They were doing their work with picks and shovels and sweated blood to do it. Now we have Irish Water, which does not even know where the towns are, let alone the pipes.

We must get rid of the existing logjams in this regard. I worked with the Minister when we were in opposition and I have some faith in him. We have all these agencies to get development, but it is not happening. I was a board member of the Irish Council for Social Housing, ICSH, for about ten years. I was also the chair of a voluntary housing scheme and we built 17 houses. We had a lovely team of volunteers and we built those houses. It took the county council six years to build the same number of houses in the same field. We built our houses in 15 months and we were told it could not be done. There was not a professional person among us and we had to hire in any expertise. We did have common sense, however. The council houses were built with 11, 12 or 13 steps going up to them. It is scandalous. The houses we built were in the same field and do not have a step going up to them. We have a flat complex.

Therefore, there are many issues. I refer to bad management, inadequate training of senior officials in the council, reports and applications concerning building houses go up and come back down and six months later they go up again and the merry-go-round continues. One application had to go to seven different offices throughout the country.

Turning to the issue of planning and rezoning, there is talk about having landbanks. Perhaps it is fine for the cities but not for the rural areas. People who want to build their own houses in rural Ireland are not being allowed to do so. In addition, we have An Taisce, which is a prescribed body. I ask the Minister to please derail, debunk and defund that body. It has outlived its usefulness and it is a hindrance to people building houses now. We had a meeting with the organisation, which was limited to an hour, unfortunately. Our group was waiting for ages. We want a follow-up meeting but we cannot get it. An Taisce is just a menace.

I spoke to the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, about Knocklofty House and hotel this evening. It is a wonderful period house which is being ravaged and plundered and An Taisce does not even want to know about it. Yet that body wants to stop people building houses in rural areas. It also wants to stop, for ideological reasons, a wonderful cheese plant from being built in Kilkenny because that facility got planning permission, approval from an Bord Pleanála and an emissions licence from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. An Taisce, though, is taking a court case in regard to the facility, and it is doing that with taxpayers' money. This would not happen in an asylum. The taxpayers are funding An Taisce to the tune of €6 million each year. The organisation states that it does not use those funds for legal cases and that it gets all its barristers to work pro bono. I do not know many barristers who work pro bono. I have not met many of them anyway, so I doubt if they take cases to the High Court on that basis. This is a rotten, stinking racket and it should be stopped. These people must be removed from the equation and people should be allowed to build their own houses, within reasonable guidelines.

Moving on to zoning, and dezoning and the famous regulator, the Cahir town area plan was passed in recent months. The residents of Mountain View Drive fought against it. They have now been told that 60 ha of zoned land has gone down to 10 ha. Hey presto, the council is coming along now. I want social housing and council houses because we have a housing list as long as your arm in Tipperary, with 3,500 people on it. Along with some farmers and landowners, I had been trying to get planning permission for a small development, a cluster of houses, a nursing home scheme and a retirement village, but the answer was "No". Nothing could happen unless Mountain View Drive had a new road. That stipulation had been in a development plan, but now it has been removed. The council has now stated it wants to build 43 under Part 8 on what are now playing pitches and a green area in a housing estate which is already densely populated. Who is making these decisions? There is a public meeting tomorrow night which I must attend and I have been invited to it. The people are up in arms. They made submissions to keep this green area and now the council is going to build on it, after it has dezoned 50 ha in the rest of the town.

Turning to An Bord Pleanála, I have a problem regarding masts for 5G. Planning applications were submitted for one in Gortnahoe and another in New Inn, and there have been 120 and 86 objections respectively. I refer to building on top of a person's home. There is already an Eircom mast where the family of the late Jack Moloney gave the site free of choice, and the same happened in Gortnahoe, to the forerunner of Eircom, the old Department of Posts and Telegraphs, to get telephone lines to people. They were great people. Now, however, poles with masts on them have been put up. The company wants to erect masts that are 25 m and 30 m high to put all the antennas it wants on them. The council will probably refuse permission in this regard, and many such applications have been refused around the country.

I am told by activists, however, that 80% of those refusals of planning permission are being overturned by An Bord Pleanála. Does it care about the health of people, the visual intrusion, the Tidy Towns competition and the aesthetics? The proposed mast in New Inn is near four listed properties. I have again contacted An Taisce. We must remember these requests for planning permission must, by statute, be sent to An Taisce. The body was told about this matter via correspondence and the response was to offer thanks for being made aware of the situation. It was not interested, though, in people's livelihoods or health or in small villages and communities. It is interested in the nice dandy stuff, though, such as stopping factories and having all these meetings on ecology and climate change. This is scandalous blackguarding. I wish the Minister well, but none of these plans are going to happen unless he takes out all these logjams. He must get rid of them.

It is necessary to deal with TII to come out from a site onto a regional road, for example. I told the Minister that we decommissioned the IRA. I refer to the work of the late Fr. Alex Reid, Dr. Martin Mansergh, Bertie Ahern and others in that regard. We are left though with the NRA, which is now the TII. These are just self-empowered people who are answerable to no one. They are not accountable to this House, to the county councils or to anyone. By hell, we are not to question them. Those people are above that. They are like the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, that we have now, in that they are untouchable. We have really undermined our democracy and vested power in these people. They should not have it.

I thank Deputy Mattie McGrath for reminding me that An Taisce is a prescribed body in respect of planning regulations. It would be a good move for the Land Development Agency to also become a prescribed body to enable it to be made aware of the submission of planning applications which may border or impact public lands. It is something I will discuss with the Minister, and it is an aspect which may be introduced under planning rather than within the remit of this Bill.

I will not be supporting the amendments put forward, but I thank the Deputies for giving us the opportunity to discuss further the Land Development Agency Bill 2021. It is important we listen to the Opposition and that we listen to all sides of a discussion. However, I have heard nothing here this evening to convince me other than that this legislation is one of the most significant and important housing Bills we have seen in a long time. Coupled with the Affordable Housing Bill 2021, which I hope to see passed shortly, these will be two major Bills which will deliver affordable housing at scale. It is a challenge and it will not happen overnight, despite claims from many in the Opposition that they can deliver houses and magic them up out of nowhere. This will take time and proper Bills, such as this one, must be passed to empower and enable us to do this.

I thank the Minister and his Department for the incredible amount of legislation being produced. I refer not just to housing but also the discussion we had yesterday in respect of flexibility concerning the planning process to enable us to make the changes as we see fit in the context of the impact of Covid-19. The Ministers of State, Deputies Noonan and Peter Burke, attended the Committee Stage of this Bill.

We had 269 amendments and every single one was addressed by the Minister or the Ministers of State. Any amount of time was given to Deputies who appeared at that committee and I thank the Minister for that. I also acknowledge that the Minister took on board a number of amendments and agreed to come back on Report Stage with changes. I thank him for doing that.

The LDA vision is for cost rental housing at scale and we know that because the LDA appeared before the committee to discuss the Affordable Housing Bill at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. We know the objectives of the LDA. The Green Party has been calling for the delivery of cost rental accommodation for a very long time and for the establishment of an agency such as the LDA. It is not just the Green Party that has called for it. The National Economic and Social Council, NESC, issued a report, No. 150, on housing policy which called for the establishment of the LDA on a statutory footing as a matter of urgency with an enhanced mandate to provide land for social housing. It said that the agency should be equipped with a planning role and given the tools to assemble land. It should also be given the land management expertise required for complex, large-scale building projects to engage in direct development, including through compulsory purchase orders, CPO. I heard the CPO powers being criticised this evening but the CPO powers given to the LDA will be quite adequate. Often the threat of CPO is all that is needed, rather than having to go down that route which can take a long time. The LDA will also be tooled up to engage in master planning and the land value capture that is needed. This is the view of NESC, which is a very respected think tank in this country. It has produced some really significant and important reports over the years. It talks about creating specialist teams to assist local authorities to undertake the necessary complex tasks around unlocking land and sites. That is exactly what this Bill does and it brings about the urgency that NESC talked about. NESC also talked about establishing a cost rental programme at scale, to ensure access to land at favourable terms and homes and rents that are affordable. The LDA is focused on that and it told us so at the committee.

In terms of its objectives, the LDA is also tasked with creating sustainable and well-planned communities. It will be able to operate at such scale and vision that it will be able to pull together developments. Often what we see in the planning system is isolated developments with no cohesion between them. That is all the planners can judge because we lack county architects to bring that together. The LDA will be able to operate at that scale with that architectural vision of how places should develop and the linkage between communities. The focus is not on isolated, high-density communities but on building homes and not just houses. That is critically important.

Significant funding has been put in place for the LDA and the Minister has indicated that funding will increase further in order to develop affordable, social and cost rental housing. We need to match that housing funding with transport services. It is no longer acceptable for large-scale developments to indicate that public transport is "nearby" or that a development is "served" by public transport. That transport must be reliable, high frequency, comfortable and affordable. We need to see a commensurate increase in funding for public transport as we have seen for housing.

We also need to see the creation of public open spaces; amenity spaces that people can enjoy. If one looks at the European model of high-density developments, one always sees public open spaces that are well managed. High density development requires that and the LDA will focus on it. It was stated by Deputy Ó Broin during the Committee Stage debate, which I chaired over seven sessions, that we should "direct the LDA", or words to that effect, away from residential development. That is the most incredible statement for an Opposition housing spokesperson to make, that we should direct the LDA away from creating residential development. It was an incredible statement and I hope Deputy Ó Broin gets the opportunity to elaborate on it. We have seen Sinn Féin members on various councils objecting to housing. The Opposition is concerned with this Bill not because there is anything wrong with it but because it is good legislation, as is the Affordable Housing Bill. These two Bills will deliver housing. This is the Government that will deliver housing at scale.

I am glad to get the opportunity to speak on these Report Stage amendments. I support the LDA because anything we can do to speed up the development of housing is welcome. I ask the Minister to clarify a number of issues. I have received a lot of phone calls today about stuff that is on Facebook and I ask the Minister to clarify matters on the record of the Dáil. It is being said that from next February in rural Ireland, if one's sole income is not from farming, one will not get planning permission. I would like the Minister to confirm that this is not correct. It is flying everywhere at the moment and rural Ireland must be thought about.

The set up of the LDA is going to be vital. I have said previously that I do not believe civil servants should be in it. The Minister needs to bring in people from the private sector and I am on record as saying that. It is not that I have anything against civil servants but we need people who have proven they can deliver. I would have people on bonuses to deliver and not on salaries where it does not matter whether they deliver one or 101 houses.

Those in charge of the LDA and the Minister must do something to address the ferocious logjams that exist at the moment because of judicial reviews, with approximately 10,000 to 15,000 houses held up in Dublin. An issue arose before the Minister's time related to architects. An architects alliance was formed because people were pushed outside of the system, even though they have years of experience. I ask the Minister to deal with them. I understand the Department is trying to resolve the issues. We need as many skilled people as we can get. There is a scarcity of hands, of skilled people. I urge the Minister to work on getting people to come back. There are people in other countries that we need here. They went to England when this country closed down. I refer to digger drivers, pipe layers, plasterers, brick layers. These are top-class, skilled people. A few years ago the Minister for Health offered incentives to healthcare staff to come back to the country. If one returns here from America or Australia, one cannot drive straight away. There must be joined-up thinking on ways to make it easy and attractive for people to come back to this country. We need to dangle some carrots, as well as making all of these other important things work. In order to get to work in Ireland, one needs a car because it is not always feasible to travel by bus.

Someone must call a halt to housing bodies, local authorities and the LDA all bidding for the same parcel of land. That cannot happen because if we keep at that, it is up that the price will go. If there are 35,000 sites in this country that are owned by the State and we put roads, sewers and footpaths in and we fully service those sites, there might be a 5% to 10% difference between building a house in Dublin or in Galway but that is it. An affordable three- or four-bedroom house is between €200,000 and €250,000 and not the figures I see printed everywhere at the moment.

I hope this works. In fairness, as the previous speaker said, a lot of legislation is being introduced. However, the bottom line is that we must attract the skilled labour that we need. I heard the Tánaiste talking about 40,000 houses per annum and it would be mighty if we could get to that figure but at the moment one could wait six months to get a plumber in some rural areas. We also need to tie in with the likes of the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to address the class issues and the belief that brickies and plasterers did not spend very long in school.

We must appreciate that those people who are able to use their hands in building are the most skilled people. They are artists and we need to put them on a pedestal in the line of qualifications. Once a year, The Irish Times or other newspapers detail what colleges students go to. Someone can have all the brains in the world but if he or she is not able to use them they are not worth a damn to him or her. These skilled people who can use their hands are as important to a country as any other person and if people cannot drive the digger, lay the pipe, plaster the house or lay the block, the steel structure for an office block or a roadway that can get the people who want to work into work, be it an accountant, a solicitor, or whomever, cannot be built. We need to make sure we appreciate those people. We also need to make sure that the cycles of bang and bust and high and low stop and that we try to do things on an even keel.

The Minister has a job ahead of him and I wish him the best of luck with it. I hope this works out but the Government should not go down the route of the likes of Irish Water. Irish Water needs more funding because it needs to plan ahead to put in the water and sewer infrastructure required for three, four or five years into the future. This Government will be gone and another Government will enter office. Regardless of who is in power then, Irish Water needs to be planning four, five and six years ahead for what will be needed for housing on sites. If that is not done there will just be a complete bang.

I have not moved amendment No. 13 yet but I might address some of the points raised on it and also address amendments Nos. 1 to 12. Deputy Boyd Barrett moved all 12 of those amendments and I will address them first. I thank Deputies for taking the time to table amendments and for a comprehensive debate, both on Second and Committee Stages. As the Chairman of the committee, Deputy Matthews, mentioned, we went through 268 or 269 amendments and myself, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, addressed every one of them.

There are still some fundamental differences of approach on the LDA. That is why I could not accept the amendments to the Long Title that have been put forward in amendments Nos. 1 to 12. I do not accept the narrative from some Opposition Deputies that there should be a land development agency that does not build any homes. That is something that has been argued by the main Opposition spokesperson on housing. I do not know whether Deputy Gould has argued that at all but, in general, we need our State-owned land to be utilised productively and we need an agency that will supplement and not supplant the local authorities. I want the local authorities to be the main deliverers of local authority homes and social and affordable homes. That is why I have provided them with more money this year than ever and I have asked them to go out and buy more land to deliver more.

I refer to the points that have been raised. There may have been an issue in that I made some changes to the Bill moving forward. I acknowledge that Deputies in the opposition have also recognised that. I have tried to take on board as many of the valid points that were made on Committee Stage by Members from all parties and none as possible to frame them into legislation that will work. This is a cornerstone Bill that will be in place for years to come. We need an agency that will deliver social and affordable homes, both for purchase and cost rental on State land.

I refer to amendments Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, and then I will address No. 13 because it is important in the context of our discussions. Amendments Nos. 1 to 12 are tabled by Deputy Boyd Barrett and his colleagues in his grouping, including Deputy Barry. I cannot accept the amendments, which seek to amend the Long Title to reflect other amendments tabled by the Deputies. While I genuinely appreciate the consideration that they have given to this Bill and the detailed amendments they seek to bring, I cannot accept these amendments to the Long Title as they do not reflect the intent of the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to establish a land development agency and make appropriate arrangements for the utilisation of relevant public lands for housing. That has to be the fundamental difference and if that is the difference between this Government and many of those in Opposition, I will take that every day of the week. The idea that we would have an agency that does not build homes - and Deputy Ó Broin went even further on Committee Stage and said that it should not even plan to build homes or masterplan - just beggars belief as the Chairman of the committee, Deputy Matthews, said earlier on. Having said that, Deputy Ó Broin is entitled to his view and I respect that while disagreeing with it.

This Bill is not legislating for privately owned land. Levies are in place to activate private and public lands, which can be improved upon, and I want to see that happen. I will consider further measures as appropriate for private land activation. When the State activates a lot of the idle land it has, it will have a dramatic effect. We need to get on and get this agency up and running, get it capitalised and get it building. It is not appropriate to include such references as are in the amendments in the legislation.

The Bill seeks to increase the supply of housing, particularly affordable and social housing, by ensuring that public land that is not being utilised or that is underutilised is made available for housing. That is a simple but important concept. It also provides for the establishment of the LDA as a commercial semi-State body to deliver that housing. It is wholly appropriate that the LDA will be established as a designated activity company under the Companies Act 2014. This is in line with other commercial semi-State bodies that we all know. The Ministers for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Public Expenditure and Reform will be the only shareholders. This will ensure that this body is publicly owned. Regardless of what some Opposition Deputies continue to say, this is a publicly owned, commercial semi-State body that will deliver homes on State-owned land. It is necessary that the LDA has a shareholding as it facilitates €1.25 billion in investment from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF. I have not heard anyone argue against that yet but that may come in time.

Under the programme for Government, the LDA is being assigned a key role in housing delivery and will work as an additional resource providing services to assist local authorities in their core role as housing authorities. The committee members may be tired of me saying this but I want to restate that the local authorities will deliver the vast majority of social and affordable homes in this country. The LDA will activate other land that is not being used heretofore. We have provided those local authorities with the funds to do so and we have provided the individual targets per local authority. The LDA will also be a development authority for the relevant public lands and lands owned by the agency. This is appropriate and is in line with the other State bodies that have a development role, such as IDA Ireland or the Grangegorman Development Agency, for example. However, it will not have the full development agency role involving planning powers that the local authorities have and appropriately so. I respectfully state that I cannot accept amendments Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, and I will address amendment No. 13 when I move that. I thank the Deputies for tabling their amendments and I hope I have addressed them as best I can.

There were many other points raised and it is not that I am ignoring them but they were not relevant to these amendments. I am happy to discuss rural planning, wastewater treatment and the lack thereof and various other issues that we can address on another day. I have noted the Deputies' comments in that regard but I have not been able to address them in the short amount of time I have while speaking to these amendments.

As the mover of most of the amendments in this group, I will respond to the Minister. Many of the contributions probably were not directly to do with the amendments but that shows the frustration Members feel about housing in every area. Members are just looking for every opportunity to raise this issue because it is such a pressing crisis.

I agree with the Minister that there is a fundamental difference between many in the Opposition and the Government.

I have only a short time available to speak so I will focus on the real questions. What is the problem we have to fix? Is it that local authorities just did not bother to build council housing for the past 20 years or is it that central government did not give them the money and support to do it? The answer is the latter. The councils and elected councillors knew and were pushing all the time. I did nothing else before I was a councillor, when I was a councillor and now as a Deputy other than constantly campaign for council housing. Central government would not provide the money to do it. The Minister said the LDA is not going to usurp the role of local authorities. The first development likely to be produced by the LDA, Shanganagh Castle, is in my constituency and should have been developed by the council a decade ago but central government did not give the council the money and the development has now been handed over to the LDA. It has already usurped Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and, as a consequence, we do not know if the affordable housing built on the site will be genuinely affordable.

I have only a few seconds left to speak to this group of amendments so I cannot elaborate the points. The debate is going to be guillotined despite the fact that we have proposed 60 or 70 amendments. If that guillotine falls, most of our amendments will not be discussed but the Minister's amendments will be passed automatically.

I will stick to discussing the Bill and the amendments in question. For four decades, housing policy expert after housing policy expert has been calling for an active land management agency, a strong State agency with a significant budget and comprehensive CPO powers. The job of that agency would be to amass land holdings and, working in partnership with the appropriate State agency, assist those being developed. That is what we should be debating here today. Unfortunately, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, as parts of government after government, have refused to do that. The reasons are unclear but that is the central flaw of this Bill. The problem is that because the Government is also ensuring that this land management agency, weak as it is, will also be a commercial residential developer, the LDA cannot have strong CPO powers, cannot be involved in active land management as is required in this State and therefore does not fulfil the central demand of the NESC for such an agency or for other agencies.

This agency is usurping our local authorities because what we will see, as has happened in St. Teresa's Gardens in Dublin city, is that rather than funding a local authority to do a large social and affordable housing development, the responsibility will be transferred to the LDA. In fact, all local authorities will be left doing is small volumes of social housing, nowhere close to the volumes that are needed, and affordable rental units and houses for affordable sale will be left to the LDA.

The level of capitalisation the Minister is talking about is embarrassingly small. Spending €1.25 billion and borrowing another €1.25 billion would not even be enough expenditure to deliver appropriate volumes of social and affordable housing in a single year, let alone over the lifetime of the Bill. This Bill will not do what Deputy McAuliffe said it will do. It is not going to provide the homes that people who vote for him, me, the Minister and others urgently require. We will not see a single LDA home until 2023 and will not even hit 1,000 homes until after 2025. That is the reason we are opposed to the Bill and we want the Government to stop talking about housing and fund our local authorities to build tens of thousands of social and affordable homes annually. That is not what is currently on offer.

I am disappointed because the debate on this Bill is being guillotined. When the Minister's party was in opposition, and even when it was a part of the confidence and supply arrangement, it railed against the guillotining of legislation, rushing it through and not taking amendments. What kind of message is it sending to the public? Is it a message of "do as I do and not as I say"? The Minister has set his face against taking any of the amendments. As I said at the start, some of the amendments may reflect a fundamental difference of belief about how housing should be delivered but there are some very good amendments. Some people have gone to the time of putting them down and the Minister is pushing through this Bill with little debate.

Are there any amendments the Deputy wants to highlight in particular?

We are discussing amendments Nos. 1 to 15 in this group.

We are discussing amendments Nos. 1 to 13.

Yes, amendments Nos. 1 to 13. We have two more to go. The Minister will get his amendments through when the guillotine falls on the Bill tonight. The Minister should not make this a laughing matter. He has nothing to smile about. I believe there are not many smiles at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting tonight. There is a lot of anguish and tears.

Does the Deputy miss it?

The wheels are falling off the wagon. The Minister will have to rein in Deputies O'Dea and MacSharry and others. They have found out what we know about the Government. The Government is not fit for the job, full stop. I do not say that to the Minister personally but it is definitely true of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health.

I will redirect the Deputy to discussion of the amendments.

The Minister tried to interrupt me by asking what amendments I was speaking about. I am calling out the guillotining of the legislation without giving enough time for debate. This important legislation raises many issues about the LDA. There are a plethora of other agencies out there that are not fit for purpose, not doing their jobs and not accountable. Will the LDA be accountable? We set up quango after quango and then rub our hands and complain about them. They are being enabled by this legislation. I would go so far as to say the country will be a safer place when the Dáil is in recess and the Government is not passing any legislation. The legislation the Government is passing is more bizarre every day.

I agree with Deputy Mattie McGrath about the use of the guillotine. It is not an acceptable practice. It is a pity because a considerable amount of time was spent on the Bill in committee and it was a good process with good engagement. It is a pity the time is not being allocated to finish the process properly because I believe legislation benefits from discussion and scrutiny.

There is a key thing missing in this Bill and in the direction the LDA is going, that is, the area of strategic land assembly, which is what the LDA was originally meant to be about and what all those reports from the NESC and others were meant to be about. Without strong CPO powers to allow the LDA to buy land that would be suitable for housing but is, for example, zoned for agriculture at the moment, and without the opportunity to assemble that land bank, we will not have a sufficient pipeline of land at an affordable rate which then brings down the cost of delivery to ensure we can provide affordable homes for purchase and cost rental. That is missing here.

There is a lot of value in what the Minister is looking to do here in terms of State agency lands. That is important and will be significant. However, what is missing is the piece around strategic land assembly allowing for a pipeline of land and ensuring that the uplift from rezoning is not captured privately but publicly, and that the public act of putting in infrastructure and zoning land is leading to more affordable homes. I am concerned about that. It is worth noting that the former chair of the LDA, Mr. John Moran, has been highly critical of the lack of funding and has said that the €1.25 billion in funding and the €1.25 billion available in borrowing are highly insufficient. That level of funding will not go near to supplying the 150,000 homes it was originally envisaged the LDA would be providing.

I am worried about the CPO aspect of the legislation. It is proposed that "other land" could be acquired by CPO. There is a big problem in Dublin and there are also problems in Kerry but they are different problems that can be sorted out differently. The Minister is talking about populations over 30,000 whereas I am talking about villages with populations of 1,000 or 2,500. They also need to be assisted. In many instances, Kerry County Council does not have land on which to build in these sorts of places. I am asking the Minister to fund the local authorities at least sufficiently to buy sites. The Minister is not listening.

Táim ag éisteacht.

I am asking the Minister to fund the local authorities so they can purchase sites around local villages and towns. Our land is exhausted at the moment. We have very little land left in most of the rural towns and villages, including Currow, Scartaglen, Rathmore, Gneeveguilla and all of those places. There is no land. I am asking the Minister to fund the local authorities so they can purchase lands on which they can build houses themselves. We must sort out the sewerage problems that are stopping progress and development in those areas. We have different problems in Kerry. The tenant purchase scheme is denying 80% of applicants the right to purchase their houses.

That money is going towards dealing with voids and bringing them back up to standard. At present, we have 162 voids in the county of Kerry. It is absolutely crazy.

I believe the Bill has sufficient compulsory purchase order, CPO, powers to allow the LDA to deliver the homes we have spoken about in previous phases of this discussion. As the Minister said, there is a fundamental difference here between what the Government wants to do by establishing a LDA that builds and develops homes and the Opposition, which wants to put together an agency that assembles land and then provides that land to the local authorities. We are not saying it is one or another. We are saying that both the local authorities and the LDA will be building affordable homes.

I was genuinely disappointed to hear the Opposition suggest there has not been sufficient debate on this issue. I sat through several sessions, chaired very ably, by the way, by Deputy Matthews, where there was full debate. More than 250 amendments were tabled, on which Ministers came in and responded. I do not believe, therefore, it is fair or reasonable to say that we have guillotined debate on this issue. We want to press the starter button to get on with this process and stop talking about the delivery of housing.

I acknowledge those Deputies in this House who said the process has delivered change and that their Minister listened and responded to them. I see those changes in the Bill. I am genuinely disappointed, however, that Deputy Ó Broin has now said that Sinn Féin is opposed to this Bill. When I saw the list of amendments, I did not see one from Sinn Féin. I presumed Sinn Féin would be supporting the Bill. It now appears that the greatest Opposition party in the history of the State did not table even one amendment to a Bill it is actually opposing.

I thank Deputy McAuliffe. Before I go to the Minister to reply, Deputy Boyd Barrett has a further two minutes if he wishes.

I am sorry. Deputy Gould is indicating at the back of the auditorium. I did not see him.

I will make two points. I find it amazing that I attended housing meetings where I and my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, were criticised for the number of amendments we tabled because we tried to change this Bill fundamentally to deliver-----

That is not true.

-----and we tabled no amendments today. We are being criticised by Deputy McAuliffe for not putting forward amendments to this Bill. We tabled more than 100 amendments when the Bill was in the housing committee. We were criticised for putting forward amendments there. This is typical of Fianna Fáil to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Vote for the Bill then. If you do not want to change the Bill then vote for the Bill.

Deputy Matthews spoke earlier. I know Deputy Matthews is a new Teachta Dála but I would invite him to contact any local authority or to come to County Cork. We have buildings in North Main Street in Cork city that are crumbling. Cork City Council has to look at compulsory purchase because the compulsory purchase provisions were not strong enough. It is the same in this Bill. It will not go far enough to get what we need, which is land to build houses on.

I thank Deputy Gould. I call the Minister to respond. I am told my procedure is wrong.

Are we not letting Deputy Boyd Barrett in again?

I thought it might be better for Deputy Boyd Barrett to hear the Minister's response.

I get the last word.

I will respond after Deputy Boyd Barrett. I will give way.

Does the Minister not want to respond?

I know what Deputy Boyd Barrett is going to say.

I want the Minister to respond and then I get the last word because I tabled all the amendments.

That is what the Minister is going to do. He will respond.

In fairness to Deputy Boyd Barrett and his colleagues, at least they tabled amendments.

Would the Minister like to respond to the debate?

I wish to correct something Deputy Gould said when he referred to Deputy Matthews as a new Deputy. Deputy Gould is too and he is as entitled as anyone else to make a contribution on the floor of the House.

The compulsory purchase laws are not strong enough. The Minister should come to Cork and I will show him vacant properties-----

Be orderly, please.

I will say this to the Deputy. I sat through the vast bulk of the Committee Stage debate on this Bill. No one criticised Sinn Féin for the number of amendments it tabled. The Deputy did not want to table any this time; that is fine. That is his own choice. Deputy Gould and his housing spokesperson decided not to table amendments on Report Stage. That is fine. Deputy Boyd Barrett did and I am addressing those amendments. I have addressed in some detail why I will not accept them. I say to Deputy Boyd Barrett, however, that there is a fundamental difference. I want a Land Development Agency that builds and plans to build homes on State-owned land. It will not usurp the local authority. The Deputy made reference to Shanganagh, which will deliver hundreds of homes. This is where Deputy Boyd Barrett's local authority is working in partnership with the Land Development Agency. No land was transferred over to it in that; it is a partnership approach.

Deputy O'Callaghan raised a good point, which needs to be addressed. He made a reasonable point, unlike some others that have been made, with regard to land assembly. I remind Deputy O'Callaghan that any State agency that sells land will have to offer that to the Land Development Agency first. I want the LDA to get on with and deliver on the initial nine sites it has. Before this year is out, however, I would expect it to have significantly more land to develop.

Finally, I will respond to a comment made by the main Opposition spokesman on housing, who bemoaned the fact there will only be €1.25 billion worth of Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, funding plus an equivalent in borrowing of €1.25 billion. Here is a guy who actually does not even want us to build anything so what is the point? Deputy Ó Broin cannot have it both ways. If he wanted to change it, he should have tabled amendments to it.

The last word on this group of amendments is Deputy Boyd Barrett's.

I have not moved or spoken on amendment No. 13 yet. It is a Government amendment. Deputy Boyd Barrett is concluding on amendments Nos. 1 to 12-----

No, I am sorry. Amendment No. 13 was included in this grouping. The Minister can move it later but there is no time to discuss it.

I said to the Acting Chairman in the Ceann Comhairle's absence that I was going to make a point specifically around amendment No. 13 because it is a Government amendment. I have not done so yet. I can be very brief so as not to detain Deputy Boyd Barrett.

The Minister is caught by his own guillotine.

I am sorry-----

Not at all. If Deputy Boyd Barrett does not want to know why we are changing the Title to the Bill, that is fine.

The procedure is applied equally to everyone.

That is absolutely fine.

The Minister has spoken twice. He may not speak again. He may move amendment No. 13 when the time comes.

I will move amendment No. 13 at the appropriate time. Maybe they will not oppose it so that is fine.

Maybe they will not. Deputy Boyd Barrett, we are waiting with bated breath.

We have a problem with amendment No. 13. We welcome the fact that the reference to market price, which was one of our amendments, has been removed. Then, however, it refers it on to the Affordable Housing Bill, in which there is no clear definition that ensures "affordable" will genuinely be affordable in terms of rent or affordable purchase based on people's income. Instead, it will be specified by the Minister and references to market price, market conditions, and indeed, local market conditions still continue to litter the Bill.

In the one minute and 40 seconds I have left to speak to eight or nine amendments, I must correct a factually terribly important point made by Deputy Duffy about the Minister's commitment. Deputy Duffy is correct. The Minister made a commitment on Committee Stage that LDA sites in Dublin and Cork would develop exclusively 100% public and affordable housing as we, Deputy Duffy and others asked for in amendments. The Minister did not follow through on that commitment and it is not in this Bill. I will quote the section if the Minister wants. Amendment No. 120 is the Minister's and amendment No. 122 also relates to it. He said that in areas with a population of more than 150,000 people, he may prescribe up to 80%, which, when one takes in the Part 5 and Part 10, means it is possible that it could be 100% public and affordable but he can equally do far less than that. There is absolutely no hardwired obligation to deliver exclusively public and affordable housing on public land and that is our fundamental problem. By the way, the issue of a land assembly or land development is in the next grouping, not in this one. In this grouping, we are saying that the exclusive objective of the Land Development Agency should be to deliver public and genuinely affordable housing.

In this amendment, we are saying that the exclusive objective of the Land Development Agency should be to deliver public and genuinely affordable housing. That should be its objective, as well as facilitating local authorities in achieving it.

The Deputy's point is understood.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 81; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Níl

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Mick Barry and Richard Boyd Barrett; Níl, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers.
Amendment declared lost.
Deputy Holly Cairns did not vote in this division due to an agreed pairing arrangement with Minister Helen McEntee for the duration of the Minister’s maternity leave.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, line 6, to delete “housing so as to address deficiencies in the housing market” and substitute “public and affordable housing so as to address deficiencies in the housing supply”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, line 6, after “market;” to insert the following:

“to provide for a requirement that a proportion of the dwellings built be genuinely affordable in perpetuity to rent or buy and that the remainder remain public housing and that the proportion be decided by the relevant local authority in consultation with the communities;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 7, line 7, to delete “DAC” and substitute “public agency”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 7, line 8, after “public” to insert “and relevant private”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 7, line 9, after “of” to insert “such”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 7, line 9, to delete “develop” and substitute “assemble”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 7, line 10, to delete “, including with other persons or bodies”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 7, lines 12 and 13, to delete “to enable the Agency to form subsidiaries for the purposes of carrying out its functions;”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 7, line 14, after “Public” to insert “and Relevant Private”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 7, line 14, after “for” to insert “public and affordable”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 7, lines 14 to 19, to delete all words from and including ‘‘to” where it secondly occurs in line 14 down to and including “price” in line 19.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 7, lines 18 and 19, to delete “at a price below market price” and substitute the following:

“on a cost rental basis, transferred to a planning authority or transferred directly in accordance with Part 2 of the Affordable Housing Act 2021”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 14, 23, 34, 40, 42, 60, 61 and 103 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 8, line 4, to delete “Land Development Agency Act 2021” and substitute “Active Land Assembly and Management Agency Act 2021”.

This group of amendments is also from Solidarity-People Before Profit.

I apologise for interrupting but the Minister wishes to speak.

I request that the Ceann Comhairle direct the Clerk, in accordance with Standing Order 196, to make the following minor corrections to the text of the Bill.

On page 36, line 9, to replace the words "section 55(2)" with "section 55(3)".

On page 40, line 3, to replace the words "section 52" with "section 53".

On page 40, line 4, to replace the words "section 53(3)" with "section 54(3)".

I thank the Minister. The amendments will be made. Apologies to Deputy Boyd Barrett but he has the floor on amendment No. 14 and the grouped amendments.

All the amendments in the group are from Solidarity-People Before Profit. We discussed much of this subject matter in the previous, more general, discussion, which concerned the Title, but this is the group of amendments dealing with us setting out the alternative approach that we feel should have been pursued with the Land Development Agency. This is to make it a land assembly agency that could create a pipeline of land necessary in order to ensure the supply of public and affordable housing by local authorities primarily, approved housing bodies and not-for-profit bodies. It would leave the development of those lands to local authorities and, in an important point, prevent the Land Development Agency from essentially operating as a commercial entity.

This speaks to a major concern that we have about the conception that the Government has about the Land Development Agency. I remember the debates about the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, what the agency would achieve and why it was such a good idea. As time went on, it became increasingly apparent that NAMA had a problem with delivery. Some of us did not like the idea of NAMA in the first place but we thought it could and should have helped to deliver public and affordable housing in its large property portfolio. When representatives of NAMA came before the finance committee, they used to say, basically, that was not their mandate. It may have been a subsidiary objective way down its list of priorities to identify some houses for public housing and in the end only approximately 2,000 properties were transferred to local authorities.

By and large, NAMA's mandate was set from the outset and it was to recover the money put into it. Therefore, it had an interest in reinflating the property market. The consequence of that has turned out to be quite disastrous. NAMA can now turn around and say it has generated so many billions of euro, with a surplus over and above what was projected. Taking this in the round, however, what has the consequence been? Much of the land it disposed of has been handed over to private agents with no interest whatever in developing the public and affordable housing we need but they have played a very significant part in driving up the cost of housing to the current unaffordable levels. That was hardwired into the mandate set down in the first place and to my mind there is a similar problem with the Land Development Agency. What goes into or does not go into the legislation will, essentially, determine the outcome of the Land Development Agency.

This relates to the debate we had earlier about the guillotine and so on. Deputy McAuliffe has said we discussed these matters on Committee Stage and it therefore does not matter that there is a guillotine on Report Stage. I am sorry but there is a legislative process. The entire point of the discussion on Committee Stage is to take on board each other's points about amendments and different sections in the Bill before formulating further amendments on Report Stage based on that discussion. Most of our amendments will not be reached, although all the Minister's amendments will be accepted once the guillotine comes down. That is truth. Some of the key matters that should be scrutinised will not be examined.

Many of us want to ring the alarm bells about this. There has not been enough digging into the detail in public discourse and debate on this. We did this on Committee Stage to some degree but to be honest there is still much confusion about what the Land Development Agency is going to do. One of our key concerns, which some of the amendments are trying to nullify, is the possibility that the Land Development Agency will engage in commercial activities. That is not its job but the legislation allows it to do it. It is just like NAMA ended up essentially operating as a sort of business that was trying to recover its investment and generate a surplus, despite that having quite dire consequences in the wider housing market. It essentially handed back control of the land bank suitable for development of houses to the big investment funds that bought up all those portfolios from NAMA.

This group of amendments also requires that the purpose of the Bill is to deliver solely public and affordable housing, limiting the role of the agency to making land available to local authorities in order that they can provide public and affordable housing. The amendments would ensure the LDA will be fully publicly owned and controlled. Currently it would be publicly owned but not publicly controlled. The problem with many quangos is they are publicly owned but not publicly controlled.

There are questions of commercial sensitivity because of deals with private finance and so on and we cannot find out what is being done when such bodies operate to a different set of objectives and priorities to what might be set by local authorities or communities according to their needs. They are always looking to the deals being done with private finance, which completely distort what the objectives of such an agency should be. This moves the purpose of a body like this away from what it could and should be doing, which is to aggressively assemble the land we need and servicing local authorities in delivering public housing, as they have always done in the past.

We are happy to support this group of amendments. It seems to me from listening to a number of Government backbenchers that they just do not understand the reason we need an active land management agency, despite the fact that for 40 years, report after report, including Government reports, have explained why it is needed. Unless there is an active land management agency whose sole function is in the public interest to acquire strategically important pieces of land, either from other State agencies who are not using it or are not using it for the correct purpose or from private interests, how can we ensure that land can be transferred to the relevant State agency for development? That may be IDA Ireland for industrial development or local authorities for residential development.

It is not the case, as one Government backbencher has said, that the compulsory purchase order powers in this Bill are adequate. They are not. The only compulsory purchase order power in this Bill is for ransom strips, which are small strips of land that the LDA will need to get access to its own sites and for the purposes of servicing. One of the crucial powers of an active land management agency - comprehensive compulsory purchase order powers to ensure every bit of misused strategically important land is put to a proper purpose - is absent from the Bill. It is a simple statement of fact.

Why is the Bill constructed in this way? If an active land management agency was to be created properly with strong compulsory purchase order powers and a strong budget, it would be able to force other public agencies or private interests to release land. For example, Donnybrook bus garage or the Pearse Street bus station could be acquired for proper mixed-use, residential and amenity development.

Privately owned land that is hoarded and underdeveloped could be acquired if necessary. Because the Government has not done that, it means those agencies such as our local authorities that are better placed to plan and to develop will be sidelined once again, as they have been for the past four decades by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

There is a consequence to that. Government Ministers and backbenchers keep talking about delivering affordable homes but the consequences of going down the route of a publicly owned commercial residential developer will be higher development costs. Land would have to be acquired at above existing use value. Yes, there would be some discounting of that existing use if it has a mixture of social and affordable, but it will be more expensive to acquire than an at existing use value. Because the Government is underfunding the Land Development Agency, LDA, it is going to have to go out to secure additional private equity and private finance. There is no other way of it meeting anything close to the targets the previous Government set for it. That would push up development costs. This is why on the first LDA-led project, which is Shanganagh Castle, we do not know what the purchase price of the affordable homes will be. I suspect they will not be affordable. This means the Government would have to put in a serviced sites fund to bring the prices down, or they will be sold as the so-called affordable homes in O'Devaney Gardens at €310,000, plus a €50,000 equity stake that has to be returned to the State. I put it to the Minister that €360,000 is not affordable. This is why the affordable rents in the Shanganagh Castle development will not be affordable for key cohorts of people who need them: those households whose income is just above the thresholds for social housing and who need rents at below €1,000, preferably between €700 and €900 per month. Instead, their rents will be €1,200 or €1,300 per month.

The way this legislation is constructed will not only undermine the active land management function, which we need, it will lead to a development model that is primarily commercialised, albeit publicly owned, pushing up development costs and making these homes unaffordable to many of the people who need them. This is why the Bill is fundamentally flawed. I make no apology for not wanting a centralised State agency to deliver homes commercially or to be involved in planning. It has no purpose doing that. We have local authorities. They have statutory responsibility for housing and planning. They have the skills and the ability, notwithstanding the asset stripping by previous governments. If the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, was really serious about delivering the tens of thousands of affordable homes annually that the State needs, he would not be wasting his time with this legislation. The Minister would be doubling direct capital investment by the State and ensuring local authorities have the funding to deliver the 20,000 public homes a year he promised during the general election but which he then very quickly abandoned when he realised the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, was controlling the purse strings and he was never going to get the money. Local authorities should plan and deliver, and the Land Development Agency should assemble land and ensure local authorities have a sufficient supply of land into the future.

I will raise another genuinely concerning point. A lot of our talk has rightly been about affordable housing, and that is not a problem, but I am really worried that delivery of social housing would be far too small on the sites that were not originally local authority sites. The Government keeps talking about this in the context of Part V of the Planning and Development Act. In general, the non-local authority sites are likely to have only 10% social housing. That would be an enormous mistake at a time when the current output of social housing is way below the level that is needed, even if targets set by Government are met.

I will conclude on the issue of amendments. We spent 14 hours in seven committee sessions. I thank the Minister, the committee clerk, the Chairman, and the officials in the Bills Office and the Department for this. The Minister will be aware Sinn Féin has tabled more amendments to this Bill than anyone else, at almost 170 amendments. I took a decision, which was the right decision, not to table amendments on Report Stage, in part because the Minister had given a commitment to look at amendments and come back. Unfortunately, we will not get to discuss some of those today but I acknowledge that. Make no mistake, this Bill is not over. There is another round of the legislative process in the Seanad. We will table other amendments on that small number of core issues we believe the Bill still does not address. I will be very clear: this is flawed legislation. It is a bad idea for this kind of agency. It will not do what the Government is saying it will do.

The time is up Deputy.

My big fear is that, just like NAMA, in years to come-----

Thank you very much Deputy.

-----we will be sitting at a Committee of Public Accounts with serious controversies-----

There is a time pressure now, Deputy Ó Broin.

-----because of the bad way this was developed.

I thank the Minister. He and his officials have produced very important and stellar legislation which I believe will stand the test of time. I thank the committee, chaired by Deputy Matthews of my party and whose office is down from mine in Leinster House. I have seen his dedication and hard work on this over recent months.

In this debate so far we have not touched on one of the more important reasons we would have a Land Development Agency as conceived by this legislation. At the outset of this Government 12 months ago, the Taoiseach said the three priorities of Government would be health, housing and climate. We are in danger of looking at these three issues in a very siloed way, but in reality they are very connected. I will draw a link between this Bill and climate, which is my own particular interest, and I chaired the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. The Minister will be aware we have gone through some significant work in recent months. We expect that the climate Bill will pass through the Houses of the Oireachtas and into law in the next few weeks. Housing and climate cannot be separated. Housing as it is currently configured in Ireland is very linked to our greenhouse gas emissions. We have a commitment in the programme for Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% per year, which is about 51% through to 2030 and down to net zero by 2050.

In my committee we did a series of sessions in recent months on transport emissions, which are generated by bad planning and by putting houses, commercial developments and office developments far away from each other such that people need to drive. The LDA recognises this and the importance of good planning and good spatial development so that we do not need to depend on the private car and we do not need to generate greenhouse gas emissions. It is a very significant step in Irish planning and in governance that we now have a national agency that will embrace the concept of compact growth such as the 15-minute city and the ten-minute town. These concepts are critical to the development of our society as we go forward.

In my city of Limerick, the LDA has engaged on a significant piece of work to develop high-density, high-quality, housing on the Colbert Station lands, which are very near the city centre. It is about 50 acres of land. We believe the development of these lands will significantly enhance Limerick city and make it a sustainable city environmentally and economically. It will lead to Limerick thriving in the decades to come.

Transit oriented development has been championed by the LDA and its former chairman, Mr. John Moran.

It is the idea that housing is developed around transport nodes in a high-density but high-quality way, which is family oriented and connected to amenities and all that towns and cities have in their condensed nature. This is critical and it marks a step change in how we do housing in Ireland. I look forward to the LDA continuing its work and embracing those ideas in the years to come. What we will see, and what the Bill will underpin, is a new way forward in how we develop housing in Ireland in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute. The previous speaker mentioned how we are becoming more attuned to discussing the 15-minute city and the ten-minute town but every Wednesday we discuss the three-hour guillotined debate on important legislation. It is not just because of Covid. It can no longer be the excuse for why we have to condense such important debates into such a short time window.

I thank the committee Chairman and members for allowing me to move my amendments and speak to them on Committee Stage. None of the amendments tabled by the Opposition were accepted. We had 14 hours of debate on Committee Stage and we have three hours today. The Bill has not developed or moved forward in any way or evolved in any significant way for us. We supported it on Second Stage, as the Minister will be aware, because we agree with the concept of a land development agency but for us not enough has been done to protect public lands. Yesterday, we spoke about how important the role of councillors is in our local democracy and how we need to strengthen their role. The Bill does not do this. The LDA is not accountable to the Oireachtas. There is no guarantee the homes that ultimately will be built will be affordable. The Labour Party will not support the Bill for these reasons and because of how the debate has carried on during Report Stage and particularly on Committee Stage. I will leave it there. There is no point adding more performative politics in such a tight three-hour window when nothing will change. We will wait for the guillotine to come down and cast our votes then.

I agree with Deputy Smith on the guillotine. To be fair, I acknowledge that a small number of amendments are being addressed by the Minister. Many of the substantive issues we have raised are not being addressed and this is of significant concern to us. One of the areas in which the Minister was very strong on Committee Stage, and in his comments in public and in the media, is that he gave a very clear commitment that on Report Stage he would bring an absolute guarantee that 100% of the LDA homes in the large urban centres would be social, affordable and cost rental and that the guarantee would be in the legislation. The guarantee is not in the Bill. The legislation allows for it to happen but it does not guarantee that it will. This is a major weakness and flaw, and a major climbdown from what the Minister committed to. Why has he not provided the guarantee when he was so clear there would be an absolute guarantee in the Bill? This is a key point. If he is not able to deliver on his guarantee in the legislation, it calls into question the guarantee he has given. We need to know why, when he was so clear, is it not guaranteed in the Bill.

In any event, all housing on public land should be 100% social, cost rental and affordable purchase. I agree with Deputy Ó Broin as I also have concerns and they are reflected in the amendments I have tabled on Committee and Report Stages. I have concerns that potentially there will be a small delivery of social homes on these LDA lands, particularly given the context that until quite recently we saw 100% of public land used for social homes. The fact there could be a small enough percentage is very concerning.

There is a major cost to the Bill not being focused on active land management. For decades, housing in Ireland has been affected by land speculation, land hoarding, the drip-feed of homes and more expensive delivery of costly homes. These will continue because the LDA will not have key powers of active land management. This is in the context of having some of the highest house prices in Europe. The failure to tackle land costs and land speculation is a flaw in the Bill and is concerning. Another key flaw in the Bill is the concentration of multiple functions in one agency. This will lead to accountability issues and problems. This, combined with the absence of strategic land assembly on the scale it should be at, with strong compulsory purchasing powers, is a significant issue.

There have been good contributions from Deputies on the importance of strategic land assembly, climate change, the 15-minute city, the importance of building sustainable communities and the importance of investing in infrastructure, cycling and public transport. I agree with all of these comments. They are all points well made. The key problem with the Bill is that it does not provide a mechanism to capture the uplift in land value from rezoning and use it to invest in infrastructure and deliver affordability in homes. That this is missing from the Bill is a massive failure in what we could do to address climate change by using the land value uplift to invest in sustainable transport. This is a massive missed opportunity, considering the Green Party is an active part of the coalition government. Because this mechanism is missing from the Bill, we will continue to do the opposite. The public will continue to spend on infrastructure that does the opposite and confers land value uplift into the hands of private landowners and private land speculators, who then use the increase in land value to sell the land at a higher price so the homes are delivered at a higher cost. This will add to our affordability problems.

Other countries have figured out that we can capture uplift in land value if the land is subject to compulsory purchase at an early stage before it is zoned and the infrastructure and amenities are then put in. This leads to better and more sustainable communities at a much more cost-effective level, rather than handing the value over to people who have contributed nothing but have been fortunate enough themselves to have had the resources or capital to buy land early in the process. This is what the Bill is missing. It is a massive public value that could be captured. It would make a massive change in how land is assembled strategically in the long run. It would deliver the type of affordability that we need in respect of affordable purchase and cost rental, and of delivering social homes. It means we could deliver them at much more affordable rates.

We have four contributors offering and approximately 13 minutes remain. We now have five Members offering. Is it agreed that we will give each speaker three minutes each? Agreed.

I will take just one minute. I understand that people who have tabled amendments want to speak to them. I again want to object to the guillotining of the Bill.

It is a practice the Government has engaged in. It can blame Covid and everything else. It railed against it when it was in opposition and when it was in a confidence and supply agreement but now it takes it up with gusto. It is a desperate practice and we cannot properly scrutinise legislation.

I am happy to speak in favour of the Land Development Agency Bill. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, has really taken the lead since he came into the Department. Housing has floundered for far too long. Fianna Fáil in government always delivered on housing and I am glad to see the Minister again taking the front foot in this regard.

There are a few important details in the Bill we need to focus on rather than the sideline issues presented tonight. The salient points are that this will give a statutory basis to the Land Development Agency and give a positive State intervention in line with EU state funding rules. Already work is under way on 4,000 homes. That is important and this deals with towns with a population in excess of 10,000 people.

Many of us in this Dáil Chamber have come from council chambers where, in the past, votes were put before councillors. I am glad to see there is an element in this Bill that bypasses, insofar as the Land Development Agency is concerned, those awkward votes in council chambers. I am sure that will be welcomed by Sinn Féin because, although I am a Clare Deputy, I read the other day that in Dublin there would have been an extra 6,000 houses built were it not for the votes Sinn Féin councillors in Dublin have opposed. This will get them out of that sticky wicket.

Something I saw in my councillor years and could not believe was ransom strips, a little strip of 1 m ground at the end of a cul-de-sac. Developers put it there with a little bit of a kerb and a little grass area. To get in beyond it to bring services or build more houses required someone to pay a ransom, sometimes running to several hundred thousand euro - or even up to €1 million in one case. This brings in a compulsory purchase order, CPO, power in regard to that. There should be no barrier to another phase of development. Why should we put barriers or obstacles to people having homes? This Bill is another measure that the Minister, his Department and the Government seeks to introduce to ensure there is a supply of housing for people, particularly young people, who desperately need to get on the property ladder.

I am a Deputy for County Clare, living in the south of the county. We are only a few miles from Limerick city and I offer a word of caution to the Minister and his Department. Limerick City and County Council has had to regenerate three neighbourhoods because too much housing was put in one part of the city without the ancillary services and social services to back it up. We have seen areas like the south side of Limerick regenerated. We have to learn lessons from that. We want to see quality housing, which is part of the ethos of the Department, backed up by good schools and community infrastructure. That is the type of community building we want to see.

I have concerns about the Land Development Agency and how it will work. My concerns revolve around the fact that we expect it to be a panacea that will change everything in land development and getting land ready for housing. The decision to bypass the local authorities is not a good one. I say that because I see in my county that houses are being built by local authorities and social housing is being built.

The most important thing I will say is that, with regard to making land available, a number of things have gone wrong. Number one is that when we do county development plans and local area plans, we do not zone enough residential land. We do it on a desktop study without knowing if the land is available, will ever become available, can be sold, is for sale or is landlocked. I have seen all these situations where we zone land on a basis of projected growth.

I raise this idea of having dense development in our towns and cities. We should learn the lessons of the past on that and not talk about building houses without building communities. It is very important that the Land Development Agency, if it is to be charged with all that, is funded properly to do it all. Alternatively, will it be like Irish Water? That was put in place to provide water and waste water facilities and we now find it is an impediment to construction works going ahead because it is not properly funded.

It is a serious issue we face and I do not believe the Land Development Agency will solve the problems. I respect what the Minister is trying to do but I have concerns about the fact the local authorities are being bypassed. Their expertise, their skills and the councillors are being taken out of the equation.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to talk about the Land Development Agency again. It is important before the Bill is finalised to put on record the need for this agency to be established. As Deputy Crowe said, many Members of this House came from councils and over the last decade in particular, so much land was discussed that was never developed by the local authorities for various reasons. This changes that.

On Deputy Mattie McGrath's point earlier, there was a commitment that this legislation would be passed by the end of term. The Minister is keeping that and it is right. We have all said ad nauseam that housing is so important in this State and this will unlock and develop land we badly need. The Minister and his officials have brought this legislation through the pre-legislative scrutiny stage at the housing committee. It is important to see discussion among Deputies all across the House. They have put forward ideas and suggestions on the LDA.

The objective of this Bill is to establish the LDA on a statutory footing. That is an important principle and, while there have been previous attempts to establish it, this will put it in place and fund it. Targeting large areas, Dublin and Cork in particular, for 100% public homes on public land is important.

Shanganagh in my area has been referenced. We have more than 600 homes earmarked for that. That was talked about for nearly a decade and is good to see this through the LDA and the Affordable Housing Bills being passed. It is important we see progress being made on those sites and others. We are not just talking about local authority land; we are also talking about other State land, as was referenced earlier. That is an important point of this Bill. Some agencies have large tracts of land, have no intention of developing them or have never looked at them for housing purposes. The LDA will piece that together and deliver and increase housing, something I hope all Deputies want. The public have demanded it in the last 12 months. When the public was asked about it, housing was the key issue. The Government is responding to it. The Minister has worked extremely hard on it and for that I commend him. It is important we have the LDA Bill passed this evening.

I am proud and pleased for the Minister. He made it his a personal mission to get this legislation through. We made a commitment that it would be passed. I was a late addition to the housing committee. I sat through much of the debate on this Bill and noted the time the Minister gave to debate with us and Opposition Members throughout the committee hearings. At all times, he was courteous and took on board opinions. That is reflected in many aspects of the legislation that will frame the LDA.

The LDA is, as Deputy Canney said, not a panacea. However, it is one in a suite of legislative tools the Minister is bringing before this House and, alongside the Affordable Housing Bill, will be a key plank in addressing the single biggest issue in this country at the moment, namely, affordable housing. Many Deputies have said this will not work or do the things it says on the tin but if one speaks to executives and senior management in local authorities and city councils across the country they will say the one thing they needed to address the housing crisis was a land development agency.

It may not suit some people ideologically or suit the agendas of particular political parties, but this Bill has one aim, and it is not to further the needs and aspirations of the Fianna Fáil Party. This Bill is singular in its aim, that being, to address the housing crisis. We take no pride in the fact there is a housing crisis, but we are singular in our determine to address it and make housing affordable. The one thing that will underpin our performance in government will not be what goes wrong but our successful resolution of the housing crisis in time.

The LDA offers an opportunity to deliver the affordable homes that we, including my generation, so desperately need. Once the Bill passes, the LDA will be given teeth and a budget, some €1.25 billion to be exact, with another €1.25 billion in borrowing capacity. This comes on top of the largest investment in housing in the history of the State, as announced by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, in budget 2021.

The LDA is our Government putting its money where its mouth is. That is in stark contrast to Sinn Féin's position on the LDA. Sinn Féin does not want even to try to amend the legislation. It just wants to vote it down. If you had been watching Sinn Féin in the Chamber over the past year, you would know this is not out of kilter or new. In fact, blind opposition for opposition's sake is very much Sinn Féin's modus operandi, except, of course, if its members are asked for their opinion on the Special Criminal Court. Then they go to ground and avoid having to make a tough call or a decision. Well, you know what? Making decisions are an important part of being in government. Leading, including on initiatives, and compromising on your position to deliver for the common good is another part of life in government. While it might not be surprising, it is disappointing to see how cynical Sinn Féin is being tonight by opposing this legislation without even attempting to amend it. This is blind opposition for opposition's sake.

The Bill is something I believe should be welcomed by parties of the left because it is about taking back power from developers, utilising land that has effectively been frozen by stagnation and delivering homes for people who need them. I welcome the Minister's commitment to delivering sites as soon as possible and getting people into affordable homes as quickly as possible. Housing was the number one issue in areas like Lucan, Clondalkin and Rathcoole in my constituency during the general election, including for people my age.

The largest roadblock to progress is often ideology. Please, support this Bill.

I will be brief. There are just a couple of points I wish to make. When I listen to Government Deputies in the Chamber, in particular Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies, I sometimes wonder whether they have group amnesia or are living in a parallel universe. Deputy Ó Broin and I submitted more than 160 amendments on Committee Stage. We were actually criticised by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for tabling so many, and now their Deputies are saying we have not tabled enough. There is no keeping them happy.

In response to, I believe, Deputy Cathal Crowe, I will let Fianna Fáil, its partners in Fine Gael, and the Labour Party know that, in January 2020, Fianna Fáil voted en bloc against social housing in Cork. One of its councillors was the Taoiseach's own brother, Mr. Seán Martin. Do not come in here and talk about us voting against housing. Look at the minutes of Cork City Council's meeting in January 2020 where Fianna Fáil tried to block social housing.

The time permitted for this debate having expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of 29 June: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and not disposed are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 86; Níl, 51; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Richard Boyd Barrett.
Question declared carried.
Deputy Holly Cairns did not vote in this division due to an agreed pairing arrangement with Minister Helen McEntee for the duration of the Minister’s maternity leave.