Property Services (Land Price Register) Bill 2021: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 to provide for transparency regarding transactions involving property and for those purposes to expand the register that records residential property sales prices, to establish a land and other non-residential property transaction database and to provide for related matters.

As everyone in the House knows, we have a huge housing crisis at the moment with more than 100,000 households in insecure housing assistance payment, HAP, tenancies or on housing waiting lists. More than 8,000 people are living in emergency accommodation. If we were in a situation where we had enough zoned land to provide 253,000 homes for people, that would be very significant. In fact, there is enough zoned land to provide homes for 250,000 people. According to the Government, we have more than 8,000 ha of such land. What we do not have are proper measures in place to facilitate the provision of housing there. For example, we do not have an effective tax on land-hoarding, although the Government has undertaken in the budget to introduce a tax of 3% on zoned land.

Without proper data on land, including who owns it, what price they paid for it, how much it has increased in value before they sell it, and how long they hold or hoard it for, it is not possible for the best and most effective measures to be introduced by the Government and this House. A land price register would provide that information in order that the most effective measures could be taken. It would also create transparency around land, including a particular insight into the costs of land, which is very important in terms of construction costs. We know we have some of the most expensive construction costs in Ireland. We also know that the cost of building materials here is in line with that in comparable European countries, the cost of labour is slightly lower than in some of those states and professional fees are on a par. What we do not know is what is happening with land prices, which means we do not know what is happening in terms of developers' profits and margins. We are not in a position to assess that information independently; instead, we are entirely reliant on industry and development sources.

This Bill, if introduced, will give clarity around developer profits and construction costs. That will be important not just for taking effective measures but also for reducing the cost of housing and making it more affordable. It is an important measure in terms of the tools we need to address housing provision and affordability. It will create a publicly accessible land price register, much like the residential property price register, and that information will be important. The Government's decision as to whether it backs this Bill on Second Stage and facilitates its progression through the Houses quickly and efficiently will show which side it is on. If the Government is serious about addressing housing, including issues around land-hoarding, prices and speculation, then this Bill offers a ready-made measure. A huge amount of work has been put into it by the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers and it is ready to go to Committee Stage. I urge all Members to support it.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.