Land Development Agency Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)

NEW SECTION
Debate resumed on amendment No. 138:
In page 34, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Definitions ( Part 7 )
48. In this part—
“market value”, subject to section 53(6), means the estimated amount for which an asset or liability should exchange on the valuation date between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction after proper marketing and where the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion;
“valuation date” means the valuation date within the meaning of section 53(2).”.
-(Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Malcolm Noonan)

We are meeting this morning to reconvene on Committee Stage of the Land Development Agency Bill 2021. I welcome the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, this morning. At the previous meeting, a vote was called on amendment No. 138.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 3.

  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.

Níl

  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
Amendment declared .
Amendment declared carried.
SECTION 48

We are on section 48. Amendments Nos. 139 and 140 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 139:

In page 34, line 4, after “a” to insert “public”.

These amendments are very straightforward. This section provides for the Land Development Agency, LDA, to have a register of public lands. We want that register to be public. These two amendments, therefore, insert the word "public" in the appropriate place in order that the public would have access to said register.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin. Will the Minister respond on amendments Nos. 139 and 140 and his amendment No. 141?

I will deal with Deputy Ó Broin's amendments. I will move amendment No. 141 and discuss that as it is purely a technical amendment.

Amendments Nos. 139 and 140, as tabled by Deputies Ó Broin and Gould and as Deputy Ó Broin has explained, seek to include a reference to "public". I genuinely do not believe this is required and I do not intend to accept these amendments.

Section 48 deals with the establishment and operation of the register of relevant public land. That is there already. The Deputy is just seeking to rename that to a public register of relevant public land. I do not consider the amendment to be required, although I remain to be convinced. I am happy if Deputy Ó Broin wishes to come back for some particular reason. It is not the title of the register that will determine that it will be a publicly available register but rather the provisions that are already in section 48(5), which provides that, "The Register shall be published and made available for inspection by the Agency on its website."

It will be a public register and that is important. The LDA has already commenced work on the register, as we all know. A prototype is available on its website but more work is required. The development of the register is a priority and it has to be, as I have said to the LDA. It is important that there is full public oversight. I assure all Deputies, particularly the Deputies who tabled this amendment, that a register will be publicly available for use by all and at all times. I completely agree that the register is a vital tool for the LDA and the Government to identify all relevant public lands; that is, lands owned by relevant public bodies in areas with populations greater than 10,000, as we understand. I think we are all clear on that. The register will detail land such owned by the Office of Public Works, OPW, Departments, local authorities and all other State bodies, including commercial State bodies.

The register will be used to identify public lands. If they are not sold, they will have an affordability requirement attached to them under the legislation, which is really important too. This will ensure that regardless of whether the land is being developed by the LDA or another developer, there will be a requirement to provide 50% affordable housing, at least in certain areas. We will deal with other changes to that next week. I intend to increase that further - above 50% - in other areas. The register will be used by the LDA to report to the Government on the use of public land. We really need that. We need to ensure there is full visibility and full oversight. In order to ensure the register is as complete as possible, public bodies will be required to co-operate with the LDA, and the LDA will be able to request information from such bodies in terms of all relevant public lands they have. Unless Deputy Ó Broin believes we have missed something, I am happy to listen. It is important that we focus on what the register does as opposed to what it is named, and I think we have been incredibly clear on that in section 48.

Amendment No. 141 is purely a technical amendment and corrects an editing error in section 48(3) by replacing the word "on" with "in". The phrase "entered on the Register" has been changed to "entered in the Register". This amendment does not in any way change the intent of the provision and simply corrects a drafting error.

I thank the Minister for his response. On the basis of his explicit commitment that the register will be public at all times, I withdraw amendments Nos. 139 and 140.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 140 not moved.

I move amendment No. 141:

In page 34, line 14, to delete “on” and substitute “in”.

Amendment agreed to.

Is section 48, as amended, agreed to?

Question, "That section 48, as amended, stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
SECTION 49

Amendment No. 142 is in the names of the Minister and Deputy McAuliffe. Amendments Nos. 142 to 144, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 143 is in the name of Deputy Cian O'Callaghan and amendment No. 144 is in the names of Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Thomas Gould.

I move amendment No. 142:

In page 35, to delete line 16.

My amendment relates to section 49, which provides that relevant public bodies must co-operate with the agency on its functions relating to the relevant public land of that particular body. My amendment removes the reference to "a member of a relevant public body;" from section 49(1) as it has been brought to my attention that the inclusion of this provision would include board members of State bodies or the elected members of local authorities like councillors. It was genuinely not the intention of this legislation to provide for this. I am happy to amend that today to provide that it is only the staff of the relevant public bodies who will be obliged to co-operate and assist the LDA, and rightly so. Members of the relevant public bodies - I am thinking of councillors here - will have no direct role. In particular, it had not been intended that local authority members would have been included in this provision given their separate constitutional and non-executive role as members of local authorities.

My amendment No. 143 seeks to achieve the same outcome as the Minister's amendment. I am glad he has clarified that this part of the Bill was not aimed at the elected members of local authorities. I am concerned that the Minister's amendment will not achieve that explicitly. While it takes out the reference to "a member of a relevant public body", section 49(1) is then left ambiguous in terms of whether it applies to members as well as staff of "a relevant public body".

While the Minister's amendment is well intended, it does not make it explicitly clear that elected members of local authorities are not covered and that section 49 does not relate to them. Therefore, the legislation will be left ambiguous. My amendment and the amendment tabled by Deputies Ó Broin and Gould are better because they specify that elected members of local authorities will not be directed to co-operate. That is important because one cannot have a situation where elected members of local authorities are under a legal obligation to co-operate with the LDA. Of course co-operation is a good thing but members of local authorities must not be legally obliged to do so because there are times when they may, within their rights, decide on a different course of action, and the correct one, from the one being proposed by the LDA. Members of local authorities must explicitly be exempt from this rather than what is in the Minister's amendment, which leaves it unspecified. I agree with the points made by the Minister but I am not sure his amendment will explicitly exclude elected local authority members or councillors from this provision. I am concerned that it will, at best, create ambiguity.

I wish to note that amendments Nos. 142 and 143 are physical alternatives so if we pass amendment No. 142, then amendment No. 143 cannot be moved.

I thank the Minister for bringing forward his amendment, which agrees with my own. It was the intention to cover elected members in this case, and both the Minister's commitment here, and our amendment, state that. Therefore, I welcome the Minister's amendment today.

The wording of amendment No. 144 is as proposed by the Association of Irish Local Government. I am interested in hearing the Minister's response to the concern expressed by Deputy O'Callaghan. I think that the Minister's amendment resolves the problem and addresses the broader issue of boards of directors, etc. I am less concerned than Deputy O'Callaghan but I would like to hear from the Minister. If the Minister's response is adequate on the passing of amendment No. 142, I would be probably more than content to withdraw amendment No. 144.

I thank the Deputies and think that we all want to achieve the same thing here.

To follow on from Deputy O'Callaghan's amendment and the intervention by Deputy Ó Broin, I checked this very specific point with the Attorney General and his office. I want to be really clear on the record of the committee that it has been made abundantly clear that my amendment No. 142, which proposes to delete section 49(1)(a), does exactly what we want it to do. On foot of the correspondence we also received from the Local Authority Members Association and others about this matter, I specifically referenced that very point with the Attorney General and his office. It has been made abundantly clear that the amendment I have brought forward deals with this extensively. I hope I have clarified the matter for colleagues.

On that basis, I am happy to withdraw my amendment No. 143.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 143 and 144 not moved.
Section 49, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 50

Amendments Nos. 145 to 154, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 147 and 146 are physical alternatives to each other. I invite either Deputy Ó Broin or Gould to speak to No. 145.

I want to be clear. I have three amendments in this group. How far are we going up?

I have Deputy Ó Broin down as having five amendments in this group, namely Nos. 145, 151, 152, 153 and 154.

The Chair is right.

I invite Deputy Ó Broin to speak on those amendments.

I move amendment No. 145:

In page 35, after line 38, to insert the following:

“50. The Land Development Agency shall be subject to the City or County Development Plan, the Local Area Plan, and any other statutory plans or bye-laws made by the local authority in relation to any land which it proposes to develop and including the making of a masterplan for such land.”.

Amendment No. 145 is a new section. This is also an amendment that has been tabled by the Association of Irish Local Government, AILG. Other than the amendment that the Minister has just tabled, which correctly dealt with that issue, we have not agreed any of the other AILG amendments to date. One has been referred back and it is important for us to emphasis that this organisation represents the vast majority of our elected councillors from all political parties and none. When it is asking the committee to consider amendments to legislation that affects their area of responsibility, we should take those amendments seriously.

This is a straightforward amendment. It is trying to reassert the primacy of the city and county development plans, the local area plans and other statutory plans and byelaws because they are fundamental to good place making and plan making, which have a democratic legitimacy because they are approved by elected members after lengthy statutory processes. On that basis, I was more than happy to submit and move this amendment by AILG.

Does the Chairman want the Minister to respond to each of the amendments in this group in turn or will I rattle through the other amendments?

To get through this speedily I invite Deputy Ó Broin to speak on amendments Nos. 151, 152, 153 and 154. I note that Deputy Paul Donnelly wishes to come in on one of these as well so I will bring him in next, then Deputy Duncan Smith and then the Minister to respond.

The wording of amendments Nos. 151 and 152 have also been drafted by AILG. Amendment No. 151 is about asserting the primacy of statutory plans, policies or byelaws made by local authorities in relation to the location on which land is situated, including but not limited to the county or city development and local area plan. It is a further strengthening of the previous amendment in that regard.

Amendment No. 152 is about the housing needs assessment being prepared by the relevant local authority and that having a key role in determining and shaping the use of land by the Land Development Agency.

Amendments Nos. 153 and 154 relate to section 50, which mentions laying a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible. I always think it is better to have a tight timeframe and therefore I would much prefer 30 days. I would like that to not just be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas but to also be presented to the relevant Oireachtas committee, which in this instance would be our committee.

I want to speak on amendment No. 150. I know there are a number of members who would have been councillors with me who went through the last county development plan and a lot of time, effort, energy and commitment goes into those county development and local area plans. They should be respected because people look to us as elected representatives to represent their views and to do what we feel is best for their area. There is a real sense of people being let down by the Land Development Agency, strategic housing developments, SHDs, or that type of legislation that usurps the control and power of local councillors and local authorities. This is an important amendment.

Deputy Duncan Smith is not here to discuss amendment No. 146. I ask the Minister to respond to those amendments and to speak to his amendments in this section.

I will address amendments Nos. 147, 148, 149 and 150 and then I will return to the points that have been raised by colleagues. These amendments are technical in nature and provide for the inclusion of a subsidiary designated activity company, DAC, in an number of places in section 50. We had a series of these earlier in the Bill and this followed feedback I received from both Government and Opposition Members on Second Stage. The section deals with reports to the Government relating to certain lands and provides that the LDA must report on relevant public land and land owned by the agency. It was always the intention of this legislation when it was being drafted that the reference to the LDA would also refer to subsidiary DACs but to avoid any doubt at all and taking on board the input and feedback from members, I am moving these amendments to clarify that the LDA must also report on any land owned by a subsidiary DAC. These amendments are being inserted to provide that particular clarity.

I want to make a couple of point on amendments Nos. 145 and 151 on development plans. I take the point that is being raised. The LDA will seek planning permission for its proposed developments via the appropriate procedures under planning and development Acts in a similar way to any other planning applicant. In making decisions on proposed LDA developments, the planning authority or the board is required to determine that these planning applications are in accordance with the provisions of relevant development plans, local area plans, or strategic development zones, SDZs, that are in force. I know there have been some issues around SHD, which expires this year as members will know.

A number of LDA developments have been through the planning system to date. As members may know, Shanganagh Castle in Dublin and St. Kevin's Hospital site in Cork had to take into account the provisions of the county development plans. All planning authorities provide access to pre-application consultations under this. Having said that, I understand the point that is being made that it might not be any harm if we were a bit more prescriptive in fully stating that it is subject to the development plans themselves and to other plans. If Deputies are agreeable, I will endeavour to come back on this on Report Stage. I want to check those two amendments out in particular. I will do that and I will come back to Deputies.

I take the point that Deputy Paul Donnelly is making and I have been a councillor myself as well. Councillors are important. They have a reserved function to vote on and put together their own county development and local area plans. That is something I have always been a firm supporter of. If there is something we can insert to make it abundantly clear that this is the case, I am happy to look at it. I want to check that there are no unintended consequences. I do not believe there will be any but if it is acceptable I will take those two amendments away and come back on them specifically on Report Stage. The Deputy will reserve the right to reintroduce them if he is not happy with what we are coming back with.

Is amendment No. 152 in this grouping as well?

Yes, as are Nos. 153 and 154.

I will not be accepting amendments Nos. 152, 153 or 154. I know what Deputies Ó Broin and Gould are referring to in the housing needs demands assessment, HNDA, but the wording there might even be problematic because it might be too prescriptive. We are doing that. I would be afraid that if we put that specific wording in, like we have the HNDA rolled out to all our local authorities, that phrase is not consistent with the phrase in amendment No. 152 and could well cause us a problem. I know what the Deputies are trying to achieve and I do not have an issue with that but it might cause difficulties.

Amendments Nos. 153 and 154 would just put further requirements on the LDA that are above and beyond what any other agency does. We discussed at length at a previous hearing how the LDA will be fully answerable to the committee. It will also have Comptroller and Auditor General oversight and it will have to report to whoever the Minister is at that given time. This would be providing another layer of reports that have to be laid as well as seeking to put additional provisions in place.

I am satisfied the provisions in the section are robust enough when it comes to laying any report before the Oireachtas or the Government. The Oireachtas committee can use the report and call witnesses in that regard, if it so wishes. The report, prepared by the LDA under this section, is to enable the Government to decide on the use of public lands. It is what the section relates to. It is not appropriate that the agency would prepare this report for the Houses of the Oireachtas as it would not have any decision-making powers for the use of relevant public lands and, if required, the disposal of such lands through it.

It is fully appropriate for a report to be furnished to the Government so it can make the appropriate decisions. It would be laid before the Oireachtas once the report has been submitted to the Government. Any decisions that arise from this on the use of public lands must be made by the Government following the report and they will also be laid before the Oireachtas.

I have dealt with amendment No. 152 so I believe that covers all the amendments in the group.

I welcomed the Minister's previous amendments that clarify the standing of the subsidiary designated activity companies and I welcome these amendments from him as well. We will support them.

With regard to amendments Nos. 145, 151 and 152, he seems willing to consider these in the context of a possible Report Stage amendment so I am happy to withdraw them at this stage. I reserve the right to reintroduce them.

I accept the Minister's point about the wording, "housing needs assessment", and this has been overtaken by the housing need and demand assessment. Will he consider the inclusion of that as well if he is tabling a Report Stage amendment on this? It will be such a key tool for determining the local authorities' housing plans. For the first time we will have an empirical evidence base indicating not only how many homes we need within a local authority over five years but we could have the information down to local electoral area and or in even finer detail. We will know how many of them should be one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom of four-bedroom properties. It would be wholly inappropriate if the LDA in its plans to develop public land was not obliged to take into account that evidence base in the same way we expect local authorities, etc., to do so. Will the Minister give us a quick update on whether the LDA toolkit for local authorities will be ready by the end of the year? There has been some good progress on that. I am happy to withdraw those three amendments and reserve the right to reintroduce them.

That leaves the final two amendments in the group. The functions that the LDA will be given are a little different from other State agencies and more similar to the National Asset Management Agency. This agency will have control, albeit subject to Government approval, to very large tracts of public land. Having an additional layer of scrutiny with a report to be sent to the Oireachtas committee would be sensible. We often complain that simply laying something before the Houses of the Oireachtas or putting it on a website does not bring it to the attention of a busy committee. Therefore, I will press that amendment.

Likewise, having a timeframe for laying the report is important. The Government must make its decisions but we would like it to do so in a timely fashion. I will also press that amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 146 not moved.

I move amendment No. 147:

In page 36, line 3, after "Agency" to insert "or a subsidiary DAC".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 148:

In page 36, line 5, after "Agency" where it firstly occurs to insert "or a subsidiary DAC".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 149:

In page 36, line 14, after "Agency" to insert "or a subsidiary DAC".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 150:

In page 36, line 18, after "Agency" to insert "or a subsidiary DAC".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 151 and 152 not moved.

I move amendment No. 153:

In page 36, line 33, to delete "as soon as may be" and substitute "within 30 days".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 154:

In page 36, line 35, after "Oireachtas" to insert "and the relevant Oireachtas Committee".

I will come back to Deputy Ó Broin separately on the housing need demand assessment.

We appreciate that.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 50, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 51

I move amendment No. 155:

In page 37, lines 3 and 4, to delete ", including an estimate, obtained by or on behalf of the relevant body, of the market value of the land".

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 156:

In page 37, to delete lines 7 to 9 and substitute the following:

"(e) of section 50(3) and any information provided to the Agency under subsection (2), shall decide to acquire or refuse to acquire that land.".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 157 cannot be moved as it is a physical alternative to amendment No. 156.

Amendment No. 157 not moved.
Question, "That section 51, as amended, stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 52 stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
SECTION 53
Amendment No. 158 not moved.

I move amendment No. 159:

In page 37, line 28, after "land," to insert the following:

"or, in relation to relevant public land referred to in Column (1) of Schedule 3*, the Schedule 1 public body referred to in Column (2) opposite the mention of the relevant public land concerned,".

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 160:

In page 37, line 28, to delete "market value" and substitute "existing use value".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 5.

  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.

Níl

  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
Amendment declared lost.

We will move on to amendment No. 161 in the name of the Minister. We will return to our offices to deal with these next couple of amendments, however.

Have we not discussed these already?

We can go through them.

I move amendment No. 161:

In page 37, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“(2) The Agency may give notice to a Schedule 1 public body specified in Column (2) of Schedule 3 of the Agency’s intention to acquire relevant public land specified in Column (1) of the schedule opposite the Schedule 1 public body so specified.”

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 162:

In page 37, to delete lines 30 and 31 and substitute the following:

“(2) For the purpose of determining the market value of relevant public land, the valuation date shall be—

(a) the date on which the Agency gives notice under section 51(4) to the relevant public body or, under section 52(3) to the Schedule 1 public body, that the land shall be acquired, or

(b) in relation to relevant public land referred to in Schedule 3, the date on which the Agency gives notice under subsection (2).”.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Amendment No. 163 not moved.

I move amendment No. 164:

In page 37, line 30, to delete “market value” and substitute “existing use value”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 165:

In page 37, to delete lines 32 and 33.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 166:

In page 37, line 32, to delete “market value” and substitute “existing use value”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 167:

In page 37, line 33, to delete “in default of agreement.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 168:

In page 37, to delete line 35.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Amendment No. 169 not moved.

I move amendment No. 170:

In page 37, line 36, to delete “market value” and substitute “existing use value”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 171 to 173, inclusive, in the name of the Minister, are related and may be discussed together. We should return to our offices to deal with amendment No. 171.

I move amendment No. 171:

In page 37, line 37, to delete "qualifications, training" and substitute "qualifications, membership of a professional body that may be required, training".

These amendments are technical in nature and amend section 53(4), which deals with the matters the Minister may prescribe in relation to the process for the valuation of relevant public land to be transferred to the LDA under Part 7. It is envisaged the Valuation Office will carry out the valuation function in most instances.

Amendments Nos. 171 and 172 amend section 53(4)(b) to clarify that in nominating a person to determine the value of land it can be based on membership of a professional body as well as qualifications and training.

Amendment No. 173 amends section 53(4)(e) to clarify that costs may only need to be paid if they arise. There would, for example, be no costs where the valuation is undertaken by the Valuation Office. They are technical amendments.

I have a small question on clarification for the Minister. I presume the intention of these amendments is in cases where the Valuation Office would not be used, and I presume this would not be the norm. Will the Minister set out what circumstances may arise? Is it if the Valuation Office is too busy with an overall workload? What would be the purpose of using private valuers for this function?

I thank the Deputy for the question. The absolute intention is that in the vast bulk of cases the Valuation Office would do it. There could be a very small number of instances where it would be a commercial State body for technical reasons and it is to give the option. It would certainly not be the norm and I would expect that valuations would be done through the Valuation Office. In the rare event there was, as Deputy Ó Broin has said, an issue with staffing and something was needed urgently, it is to give the option so we would not have to come back to amend an Act for a very simple process such as this. As I have said, I would see that in most, if not all, cases the Valuation Office would be used.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 172:

In page 38, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:

"(d) procedures and time limits to apply, including in relation to requests for further information or the giving of a notice of the determination,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 173:

In page 38, line 4, to delete "costs to be paid" and substitute "costs, if any, to be paid".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 174:

In page 38, to delete lines 7 and 8.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 175:

In page 38, line 8, to delete "market value" and substitute "existing use value".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 176 to 178, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 176:

In page 38, line 9, to delete "Sections 66 and 67" and substitute "Section 66".

These amendments are technical in nature and amend section 53(3) to correct that section 67 does not apply where the LDA is acquiring land under Part 7. Sections 66 and 67 provide that, where the LDA is acquiring land via compulsory purchase order, it can take possession of the land in advance of an acquisition order and would pay compensation to the landowner for the advance possession. This provision, as drafted, is to provide that the LDA can take possession of a site it is acquiring under Part 7 in advance of the land being vested in it. Any land that is acquired under Part 7 is being acquired as it was offered to the LDA by the relevant public body or on foot of a Government direction. The question of compensation does not apply as it is relevant public land and is not being acquired by way of compulsory purchase order. It is on this basis that I move the amendment today, to provide that the LDA may take early possession of a site it is acquiring under Part 7 but will not have to pay compensation. There are practical reasons the LDA would seek to get early possession of such sites, particularly where it would need to undertake ground surveys or detailed planning. These amendments are technical in nature.

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I have two small questions for clarification. Is this for development land or smaller strips of land to access development land in the first instance? On what grounds would compensation not be paid? I am not arguing against the amendment. It is just for the purposes of clarity.

Instances where compensation would not be paid are where land is offered by other State bodies to the LDA. There would be no requirement to pay compensation in this respect. I did not get the Deputy's other question.

I ask for clarification on the clarification. Does this mean there could be occasions where land is being transferred from one State agency to the LDA in which no cost is incurred and, effectively, the land is being transferred for free? Is this what the Minister is speaking about? My previous question was on whether we are speaking about large development sites or small ransom strip access pieces of land.

To give clarification to the clarification, this relates to taking advance possession. It is where the LDA acquires land under Part 7 in advance of the land being vested in it. It is in these instances where we would not necessarily envisage compensation at that stage. We discussed the discounted value in detail earlier. It is in these instances, whereby it makes sense for the LDA to have possession of the land at an early stage before any payment, for instance, for ground surveys, T tests, P tests or whatever the case may be. This would not relate just to ransom strips. I see this as relating to regular sites. I hope this answers the Deputy's questions.

To go back to the first point for a tiny clarification, if I understand this correctly, no compensation is paid at the time of the land being transferred but the land would be acquired through whatever the valuation is at a later stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 177:

In page 38, line 10, to delete "they apply" and substitute "it applies".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 178:

In page 38, line 12, to delete "sections 66 and 67" and substitute "section 66".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 179:

In page 38, line 17, to delete “market value” and substitute “existing use value”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question, "That section 53, as amended, stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
SECTION 54

I move amendment No. 180:

In page 38, line 24, to delete “local authority or a”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 181:

In page 38, line 25, to delete “or”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 182:

In page 38, line 27, to delete “body.” and substitute the following:

“body, or

(c) where the transfer relates to relevant public land specified in Column (1) of Schedule 3*, the Schedule 1 public body specified in Column (2) of that Schedule opposite the relevant public land so specified.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 183:

In page 38, line 32, to delete “market value” and substitute “existing use value”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 54, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

I move amendment No. 184:

In page 39, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

“Disposal of land by Agency or subsidiary DAC

55. (1)Subject to subsection (6), the Agency may, with the consent of the Minister having consulted with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, dispose of land owned by the Agency.

(2) The power conferred on the Agency by subsection (1) may be exercised only where the Agency is satisfied that it is necessary for the purposes of this Act and the performance of the functions conferred on the Agency by paragraph (c), (d), (i), (k) or(m) of section 13(1) and where land owned by the Agency is no longer required by it for those purposes or the performance of those functions.

(3) Subject to subsection (6), a subsidiary DAC may, with the consent of the Minister having consulted with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, dispose of land owned by the subsidiary DAC.

(4) The power conferred on a subsidiary DAC by subsection (3) may be exercised only where the subsidiary DAC is satisfied that it is necessary for the purposes of this Act and the performance of the functions referred to in subsection (2) conferred on the subsidiary DAC pursuant to section 32(2) and where land owned by the subsidiary DAC is no longer required for those purposes or the performance of those functions.

(5) The Agency may, subject to this section, dispose of land owned by the Agency to a subsidiary DAC where the Agency is satisfied that it is necessary, in relation to the land, for the purposes of this Act that the functions referred to in subsection (2)should be performed on behalf of the Agency by the subsidiary DAC.

(6) Subject to subsection (7), subsection (1) shall not apply to the disposal in a single transaction by the Agency of one house for rent or purchase and subsection (3) shall not apply to the disposal in a single transaction by a subsidiary DAC of one house for rent or purchase.

(7) Subsection (1) shall apply to the disposal in a single transaction of one house for rent or purchase by the Agency where the Agency forms a view, and advises the Minister who agrees with the view, that the disposal is part of a series of transactions that are or appear to be linked to each other and subsection (3) shall apply to the disposal in a single transaction of one house for rent or purchase by a subsidiary DAC where the subsidiary DAC forms a view, and advises the Minister who agrees with the view, that the disposal is part of a series of transactions that are or appear to be linked to each other.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 185 to 189, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together. I do not think Deputy Duncan Smith is present to speak to amendment No. 185.

Amendment No. 185 not moved.
SECTION 55

I move amendment No. 186:

In page 39, line 9, to delete “Minister” where it firstly occurs and substitute “Oireachtas”.

This amendment is about the disposal of land held by the LDA to third parties. In effect, the Bill allows that public land in the ownership of the LDA could be sold on to third parties, developers or investment funds and that would just require ministerial consent.

I do not think public lands should be sold on to any third parties in any instance. If there is some technical reason a small bit of land would be transferred or something like that, that should be done with the safeguard of a vote of the Houses of the Oireachtas and nothing short of that. In most circumstances, it should not be happening at all. I am not happy with the idea that it could be done by ministerial consent in terms of accountability, transparency and building public confidence. That is why I have moved this amendment.

I will ask members to speak on their amendments and will then invite the Minister to respond. Deputy Ó Broin can speak to amendment No. 187, or any other amendment in the group.

I fully support amendment No. 186 because it is very much in the same spirit as my own view of this section. Amendment No. 187 is also one of the AILG's amendments. It is a very specific provision whereby if the LDA intends to sell land that has originally been acquired from a local authority, it should be offered for purchase back to the local authority either at the prevailing market price paid to the local authority at the original acquisition or the original acquisition price, whichever is lower.

While one would not expect this to be a standard practice, it is a very important safeguard, in particular when the LDA is up and running and given that we do not know the future composition of Government. There might be a different Government with a different policy complexion. Therefore, we need to ensure that whenever decisions are being made to potentially sell on valuable local authority land or land that was originally local authority land to the private sector, there are checks and balances. I will support Deputy Cian O'Callaghan's amendment and will also move amendment No. 187.

I cannot see the order in which the hands went up. I can only see those who have raised their hands. I call Deputy McAuliffe.

I will move amendment No. 188 which relates to section 183 of the Local Government Act and provides that disposals would be approved by local authority members. There is a view that local authorities are delaying the delivery of social and affordable housing. Prior to the publication of the Affordable Housing Bill and this Bill, it could have been argued that it was not possible for local authorities to build the kind of public housing on public lands which I believe these Bills will now allow local authorities to do. Therefore, the full toolbox for councillors is now present in terms of having mixed income and tenure and well planned communities.

The decision to remove the power of disposal from local authority members will not be required. It is often the intransigence of officials to bring forward proposals that is the real delay. We have talked about amendments to this Bill in terms of targets for local authorities. In my amendment I am trying to find a way for councillors to express their desire to develop plans, and in that case it would not be possible for the LDA to take that land without their approval.

The power of disposal is often a leveraging and negotiation power which local authorities use to get good planning decisions or compromises in a development. I have said that where section 118 of the 2000 Act is enforced, in other words, where a local area plan has been put in place by local authority the lands subject to that section could not be disposed of without disposal by councillors. I am open to another mechanism that the Minister may have to do that, but even in places that have a higher population than small town centres we need to protect the right of councillors in their desire to develop land without that being taken from them without their approval.

I will speak to amendment No. 189. There is a balancing act between ensuring that the LDA achieves its objective of delivering housing on appropriate State-owned land while also ensuring that publicly elected councillors retain their section 183 authority to determine what should happen on State owned land.

Our counsellors and the leadership teams of councils are best placed to determine the needs of their local communities and what a site in their area should be used for. The housing demands needs assessment will give councillors the data they need to be able to make informed decisions on what their local community needs from a housing perspective. Their views on the best use of council-owned sites still need to be taken into account.

A population clause in the Bill could, for example, mean that in a town with a population of under 30,000 people councillors would determine what happens on council-owned sites and the LDA would have the final authority on sites if councillors cannot agree a use for them in more populous areas. That would be a good solution because the demand for housing is likely to be greatest in more highly populated areas. This would represent a compromise and would achieve the objective of delivering homes on appropriate State-owned lands while responding to the concerns of councillors highlighted to us through representative organisations like LAMA and the AILG. Like Deputy McAuliffe, I am open to another solution if the Minister has one.

It is important that we balance the needs of the LDA with the democratic rights of councillors.

I invite the Minister to respond to amendments Nos. 186 to 189, inclusive.

I thank colleagues for tabling the amendments. On a general point, it is important to remember that the vast majority of both social and affordable homes will continue to be delivered by local authorities. That is why we are tooling them up to do that. That is why we gave them the largest housing budget in the history of the State. We will continue to drive that on by giving them additional resources, which I announced last week, around the project management area, quantity surveying experience and beefing up their housing delivery teams. The LDA will deliver in excess of that. It will supplement, not supplant. We must be clear on that and reinforce it.

There is no question that a big bad commercial entity is going to come in and gobble up council land that has been identified for housing. That is not the case at all. If anything, the Government is trying to get councils to deliver that more quickly. I brought in the single-stage approval process to be able to push that on. We are looking to amend that further to get councils back doing what they were good at. They have started to do that, even leaving Covid aside, by building their own developments. They will deliver direct-build affordable housing as well. Members have seen many of the sites I visited with Government colleagues recently. That is the context of this debate.

We are looking here at the instances in which it would be appropriate for the LDA to develop that land. We have seen in Shanganagh Castle, for argument's sake, that is can be done in partnership with the local authority. That will happen with the LDA on some of the larger sites when cost rental and other housing is being delivered. I have seen that happen. I wanted to make those general points first before dealing with the amendments because they are relevant to what the LDA is about. Some previous amendments at this committee were proposed because people did not want the LDA to be involved in residential development at all, which is baffling. If we have State-owned land that is non-local authority land, which is the bulk of what the LDA is going to work with, this Government and I want to see those lands put to productive use to deliver affordable housing, social housing and cost-rental housing for people at scale. We must do this. We all know of sites throughout the country, for example in our regional cities, that have been sat on by State bodies and have not been used. In some instances, council sites that have been identified for housing have been run into the ground for 20 years because of indeterminate arguments, going back and forth. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, which means we must deliver more homes. We must do things differently to make sure we get that supply up.

In relation to the specific amendments before the committee, Deputy Duncan Smith is not here to move amendment No. 185.

I cannot accept amendments Nos. 186 and 187 because they seek to provide in section 55 that the LDA would require the consent of the Oireachtas to dispose of land rather than by ministerial consent, as is currently drafted. It is not appropriate that the Oireachtas would replace the obligations of Ministers in this provision. I do not think any future Minister would agree with this. We can imagine the potential additional delays in getting homes developed. We have seen that at local authority level. The last thing I want is to see that happening with a new agency. The Minister with responsibility for housing and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will be the shareholders of the LDA. There is no provision for any other shareholder. It is wholly appropriate that the Ministers, as shareholders and as Ministers of the Government, rather than the Oireachtas, would have to consent to the disposal of land by a commercial State body. The ministerial consent requirements are consistent with the existing procedures under Department of Public Expenditure and Reform circulars for the disposal of State assists. They are consistent with all other State agencies, as well as the ministerial consent which is required under the State Property Act.

Amendment No. 187 seeks to introduce a further amendment to section 55. It proposes that land which was previously acquired from a local authority and is being disposed of by the LDA "shall be offered for purchase to the local authority at the prevailing market price or the price paid to the local authority at original acquisition, whichever is the lower". I cannot accept this amendment because it does not serve any purpose, in that a local authority would offer land for sale to the LDA after it had already decided to dispose of the land. The LDA will only acquire such land where it considers the land is suitable for development under the legislation. I do not envisage a scenario where a local authority would want to have first refusal to purchase back land it had decided to dispose of. If one were to think about it this way, we have ensured through this Bill that other State agencies will have to offer land to the LDA first. That is the position in relation to disposal of lands.

Amendments Nos. 188 and 189, as tabled by Deputies McAuliffe and Higgins, seek to amend section 56, which relates to arrangements regarding the disposal of land by a local authority to the LDA, to provide that it will only apply to land zoned for housing. Amendment No. 189 looks at larger urban areas. I am giving these amendments close consideration. At this stage, I am not in a position to accept them but I am looking at whether section 183 of the 2001 Act may only apply if it is land that is not designated or zoned for housing. It would apply in that instance. I see this as an extremely rare scenario. Land zoned for housing that has not been used by a local authority - we do not envisage that being the case – would not be subject to section 183. I will work through some of these suggestions, taking account of the feedback received from Opposition and Government Deputies, and indeed our colleagues in local government, to see whether we can fine-tune this some more.

There is a very good reason for this. Members of the Oireachtas, in opposition or in government, cannot continue to countenance the adding of further delay upon delay on specific sites that are there. We must do things differently to deliver at least 33,000 homes a year, both public and private, which is what the ESRI based its research that I commissioned on. That is what we must achieve, but we are way off that figure. That is why we need the LDA to develop and manage State-owned land that is not being used productively. I reiterate that the local authorities will still be the main deliverer and provider of social and affordable housing, so much so that I gave approval last week for local authorities to acquire more lands. I changed the way the recoupment of costs for land purchased by local authorities is done. I held four housing summits last week with all chief executive officers across the country. I advised them and issued a letter in that regard. They are aware that when local authorities are short on land banks, which many of them are, and after the next few years they will be short because of what they are doing, they are to get back out and acquire land. We need that. I asking them to acquire land in order that they can build public homes on public land and build affordable homes on affordable land. If we say to local authorities that we want them to buy more land, and the Government gives them the funds to do that and asks them to do it, as sure as hell they are not going to be taking it away on the other side. We want the LDA to develop and provide homes on land that has not been used productively. I wanted to give this context because it is important. There are aspects of this that I am looking at and will come back to on Report Stage.

I welcome the Minister's commitment that he will return to this section on Report Stage.

I thank the Minister for taking on board my views, those of Deputy Higgins and other members of the committee who have raised this issue, and those of members of our party who are not members of the committee. Everyone is trying to approach this matter from the positive perspective of building homes. It is about finding the balance we spoke about. I will not pursue my amendment on the basis that the Minister will return to it on Report Stage.

I wish to reply to the Minister in regard to amendment No. 187. The fundamental disagreement here is that I do not believe one or two Ministers should have the authority to decide whether considerable tracts of public land should be sold, including to private actors.

One of the great values of the section 183 process in local authorities, to which I will come in a moment, is that there is a level of democratic accountability and scrutiny of both the substance of the decision and the decision itself. Land being transferred from a local authority to the LDA, which the LDA could then decide to sell on all or a portion of to a private interest with the approval of one or two Ministers by way of a phone call or email, is not an appropriate way to deal with what is possibly one of our most valuable public assets. I will, therefore, be pressing the amendment.

I will speak briefly to amendments Nos. 188 and 189, in the context of having tabled a formal opposition to section 56. That formal opposition to section 56 has been requested by the Association of Irish Local Government. In some senses this is one of the most negative elements of this legislation, even if one were in favour of a single centralised State agency to displace councils and develop housing, which is what I believe this will become. The Minister claims otherwise but we take a different view on where this will go and that is fair enough. Section 183 has two functions and it is important that the public and other interested parties listening in understand them.

First, there is a transparency function. When a local authority is considering transferring any piece of land for residential or commercial development, from a small ransom strip to a large piece of land, the director of development has to publish a report stipulating the purpose of the transfer of the land and the financial return to the local authority. If that financial return is lower than the market value, the manager must outline the reasons for that. There are many cases where that might be done because it would improve economic opportunity, create jobs or provide a community dividend, etc. That public, transparent process is the first function of section 183, which would be lost if section 56 of this Bill goes through.

The second aspect of section 183 is that the full body of elected members then has to vote on that process. Therefore, what section 56 of this legislation proposes to do is remove all the transparency and accountability and all the mechanisms by which local authorities outline what to do with what is essentially public land, which belongs to the taxpayers and the wider community. It would deny elected members a vote. I do not accept the contention that that is being doing to speed anything up. Let us look at some of the lands in question. Shanganagh Castle, for example, was sold by the Department of Justice to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council almost 20 years ago. The delay in that project was not because the councillors were in any way divided over the development of that land, as Deputy Boyd Barrett will tell us. He knows better than the rest of us because it is his constituency. Councillors had been screaming at the Departments responsible for the environment and housing for years to fund the site. They put what they wanted to see into the local area plan by unanimous vote, which is remarkable but positive. The Minister's predecessor, Eoghan Murphy, refused to fund it. The delay of 20 years in Shanganagh is due to central government not providing the funds.

St. Teresa's Gardens is the same. Dublin city councillors are agreed on what they want on that site and there is no difficulty in getting councillors to support it. The difficulty is that, before elected members have even been asked if they want to transfer it to the LDA, it is already up on the LDA's website. The great tragedy of that is that it will split the cost-rental housing from the social housing. Dublin City Council will buy back the rented social housing if this project goes to the LDA but the LDA will retain the cost-rental housing. Then, in 30 or 40 years when the principal loans raised to build those apartments are paid down, it will be the LDA that benefits from the revenue surplus, not Dublin City Council, to which it would be hugely beneficial for recycling back into the maintenance of already underfunded stock. And so on and so on. It is never, in my experience, councillors who delay the development of sites. It is central government not providing the funding.

The Minister is on record saying he wants to reassert the role of local authorities in the delivery of social and affordable homes. That is great rhetoric but how he puts his money where his mouth is by giving local authorities the money to deliver that. Oscar Traynor Road is a perfect example. By a large majority, councillors have said they want 40% social, 40% affordable cost-rental and 20% affordable sale, not unlike Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council did. Yet, all they are getting from Department officials, according to a report that went to Dublin city councillors, are delays and hurdles. Let me be very clear: I fully accept their intentions but I do not understand why Deputies McAuliffe and Higgins would seek to amend this section. It should be scrapped. It has no place in this Bill. It undermines local authorities' transparency and accountability and we will be pressing our opposition to this section.

I am more concerned about amendment No. 186 after hearing the Minister's response than I was before. I am also concerned about section 56, which I am formally opposing as well. There is a significant gap between what the Minister is saying and what the legislation allows for and there is a significant gap between what he is saying and what is actually happening in practice. The legislation allows for public land and local authority land to be acquired by the Land Development Agency. Then, if the Land Development Agency does not use that land it can sell it on to a developer or an investment fund purely with ministerial consent. These sorts of schemes are already happening. In that situation, there will potentially be private delivery of homes on what was public land and then the council or the State will step back in to take up a long-term lease, which would mean paying an exorbitant cost for 20 years to 25 years. It is win-win for the investment fund or developer that ends up getting the public land and it comes at a huge cost to the public, the State and local authorities. That is what is happening now and that is what the Bill allows for. If our amendments are not accepted and this section is not deleted, that is exactly what is going to happen. It does not matter what the Minister says about the LDA supplementing, not supplanting, local authorities because the Bill allows the LDA to supplant what local authorities are doing.

Deputy Ó Broin is correct that the biggest obstacle to local authorities building social homes is the Department and the Government not providing funding and approval for schemes. The recent report from the ESRI was damning in that regard. It stated that the excuses being made about funding not being available are just not true. It looked at the most conservative financing model it could come up with in terms of what could be drawn down and borrowed at historically low interest rates and, on that basis, it projected that we could easily double the amount of capital spending on social homes to deliver twice the amount of housing. It was scathing of the current expenditure on private sector subsidies to deliver social housing. I urge the Minister to read that report in full, if he has not done so. If he has done so, I urge him to implement it in full and scrap the provisions in the Bill that would allow public land to be sold on to private developers and investment funds. That is what it allows. If the Minister is genuinely against that happening, he should amend the Bill to stop it. It is as simple as that. Why have these provisions in the Bill if not to keep the door open for that to happen? That is the critical thing. With more than 8,000 people living in emergency accommodation and more than 120,000 households on housing waiting lists or in insecure HAP tenancies, we simply cannot afford to continue with this lack of delivery of social and affordable homes. One sure way of delaying the delivery of the houses we need is to sell off public land to private developers or investment funds that can then sit on it until prices increase or engage in a slow delivery that suits the full market prices they are trying to achieve. I am now more concerned than ever about this section.

For clarity, Deputy Duncan Smith is not present so he will not be able to press amendment No. 185. Deputy O'Callaghan has stated that he will be pressing amendment No. 186, Deputies Ó Broin and Gould will be pressing amendment No. 187 and Deputy McAuliffe will be withdrawing amendment No. 188. The next speaker is Deputy Higgins.

From my perspective, the main difference between what this Government wants the LDA to do and what the Opposition wants it to do boils down to the delivery of homes. We want the LDA to deliver housing on State-owned land and the Opposition does not want it to have that power.

That is why the LDA must have the power to act on unused State-owned land, including local authority-owned land. We are in the middle of a housing crisis and there is State-owned land lying idle and we want to change that. I accept the Minister's response to the concerns I have raised here today on behalf of Local Authority Members Association, LAMA, and Association of Irish Local Government, AILG, and urge him to use Report Stage to respond to the concerns of councillors while ensuring the LDA can achieve its main objective of delivering much-needed homes on State-owned lands.

Deputy Boyd Barrett is indicating. I will then go to Deputy McAuliffe and then back to the Minister.

This section really gets to the heart of what is wrong with the Bill and the Government's whole conception of the LDA. It is the dirty little secret behind the Land Development Agency. The agency should be about gathering up land that is being sat on by private developers and speculators, or land being held by Departments or State agencies other than local authorities, and ensuring that land is developed for public and genuinely affordable housing. Instead, we have an agency that is creating the opportunity to sell off public land to investment funds, speculators and private developers. These are the very people who are responsible for the current housing and homelessness crisis. There is simply no justification whatsoever for disposing of public land or involving private finance, speculators, developers or investment funds with the public land bank. In fact, they threaten to undermine any attempt to deliver the public and affordable housing that some of us in opposition have been pointing out for a decade is needed to address this crisis. This is NAMA part 2, to put it simply. We warned about NAMA originally. NAMA should have been used to deliver public and affordable housing but instead it was used to flog off land-----

I ask the Deputy to stick to the LDA Bill.

No, I am pointing out that the LDA is part 2 of the disastrous policy pursued with NAMA. It is exactly the same policy and will have exactly the same disastrous consequences at a time when we should be moving in precisely the opposite direction.

Shanganagh Castle is proof positive of that. If the Government had simply provided the local authority, which had signalled its desire to build public housing on that land, with the funds to do so we would have public and affordable housing on the Shanganagh Castle site now. The funding was not forthcoming because the Government always had a plan, of which the LDA is the culmination, to open up that public land bank, that particular site that was publicly-owned, to private finance and private developers. The consequence of that is we do not know whether the affordable housing will be affordable. There has also been a chronic delay in actually delivering anything and a sod being turned on that site. Why is that? It is because the Government has involved private financiers in the equation and they must make a profit. The Government has been trying to square the circle of how to deliver affordable housing on public land and make a profit for private financiers and, of course, it is a very difficult circle to square. The Government would not have to square it were it not trying to dispose of the land and involve those private, for-profit interests.

I thank the Deputy. I am going to let the Minister respond because I have had a number of hands up, a number of speakers on this and there were many points made. I ask Deputy Boyd Barrett to conclude.

I am sorry Chairman, but I had my hand raised.

I know. That is what I am saying. I have Deputy McAuliffe then Deputy Paul Donnelly and then I must go back to the Minister on this. That is why I am asking Deputy Boyd Barrett to wrap up his point, and briefly.

I have basically made the point but I just-----

Okay, thanks then-----

Sorry Chairman, stop interrupting me.

I am trying to keep the meeting-----

I did not interrupt anybody else so stop interrupting me.

-----on target Deputy Boyd Barrett. I just thought you had said you had made your point. If you have not, could you be brief on it please?

Yes. I am just concluding on the point that this is the critical section that gives away what is wrong with this Bill. There is simply no justification from the point of view of finance, as has been confirmed to us by the ESRI, and there is no justification on the basis of efficient delivery of public and affordable housing because doing it in this precise way has led to chronic delays on sites where we could have easily delivered public and affordable housing by now. The Bill will not do what Deputy Higgins is saying, it will do the opposite and it will mean the affordable housing may well be completely unaffordable.

I thank the Deputy. We will move on to Deputy McAuliffe, then Deputy Paul Donnelly, back to the Minister and then to Deputy Duncan Smith to press his amendment, if necessary.

I return to Deputy Cian O'Callaghan's point. I ask the Minister to specifically clarify it in his reply because the Deputy made a statement of what he believed to be in the Bill and then a conclusion. His belief is that when land is transferred to a private owner that it will then be sold for open-market sale or for speculation and so on. It is very clear in this Bill that regardless of who owns the land there is an obligation to build affordable housing on it. Thus if anything, it is the exact opposite of what Deputy Boyd Barrett and Deputy Cian O'Callaghan have said. I ask the Minister to clarify, because it is important for the record of the committee, that the purpose of the Bill is to assign the obligation to have affordability on it, rather than allowing a mechanism to make it unaffordable. It is not a correct for Deputy Cian O'Callaghan to conclude that the Bill will allow land to be sold and then for it to be on the open market to be developed and speculated on. He is leaving out the most important obligation in the Bill, namely, the permanent obligation, regardless of who owns the land, that only affordable housing may be built on it. It is really important. I do not think the Deputy made the point disingenuously, but it is an important thing to clarify that the obligation is permanently assigned to the land regardless of ownership.

I thank the Deputy. I call Deputy Paul Donnelly and I will go back to the Minister for a response. I will then go back to Deputy Cian O'Callaghan to move his amendment. I see he has his hand up to make further comment.

I thank the Cathaoirleach. I want to mention two things. We are talking here, and the Minster has talked as well, about local authorities developing lands. We have a site in Mulhuddart in Dublin 15 called Churchfields which has been delayed for a good number of years on the basis that there is no funding coming from central government and there is no affordable housing. That was delayed for year after year. We were crying out for housing to be developed on that land and there is space for more than 1,000 units.

Also, I ask the Minister if on the one hand the Bill is allowing land to be transferred to the LDA while at the same time asking the councils to buy more land? Surely that is completely and utterly contradictory.

I thank the Deputy. I invite the Minister to respond to the number of points made by Deputies, if possible.

A number of points have been made. We had a clear example there of some of the best in sound bite politics and misrepresentations of the real situation. That is just a fact. Throwing out phrases like "dirty little secret" and that type of stuff is not correct, at the end of the day. I reiterate that where local authorities have decided to dispose of land, they, like other bodies, including commercial bodies, must give first refusal to the LDA before selling to the market. It is only in these circumstances that section 183 of the Local Government Act would not apply as it is moving land from one public body to another. Deputy McAuliffe's point is absolute. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan may want to clarify what he said but the reality of it is we have already seen, very recently, schemes that have been funded by my Department, through the serviced sites fund, voted down by the Deputy's party, the Social Democrats, and voted by down by Sinn Féin, Deputies Ó Broin and Paul Donnelly's party. That is the proof of the pudding. That is 1,200 homes gone. Of those, 238 were to be social, 238 affordable and 150 cost-rental. They are all gone.

People will have to make up their minds as to whether they really want unproductively used State-owned lands to remain in that condition with State bodies sitting on them. I do not want that, and neither does the Government. The Bill will ensure that it does not happen. Saying that this measure would be a mechanism to sell off public land to investment funds, developers, speculators and so on - I am quoting - is a sound bite that might play well with some elements of the media and keep people disaffected, but we are concerned with delivering solutions. Parties are opposing these mechanisms. They actually opposed the LDA building any homes at all. Deputies Ó Broin and O'Callaghan went even further and opposed the LDA even planning to build for houses by saying they did not want the master plan. Let us get real.

I will consider Report Stage amendments to see whether there can be further changes in this regard, but I firmly believe that we must get on with building affordable and social homes on State-owned lands. I will table amendments to increase the affordable ratio on those lands further. I put it to the Deputies who argue against it to set out what they will do. Will they vote against homes for working people being built on State-owned lands as their parties have done in respect of council-owned lands?

We all want the State to use its land appropriately and to deliver social and affordable housing. Some Deputies are not crazy about affordable housing and do not believe in real homeownership, but this Government does. We want to give people a chance to own their own homes at an affordable rate and we have voted accordingly for it. That is why definitions of "affordability" are contained in the Affordable Housing Bill, which is a Bill I hope the Members opposite will support.

I will conclude on my next point because I know time is short, but some serious charges have been made about what the LDA will do. Deputies Ó Broin, O'Callaghan and Boyd Barrett, people for whom I have personal regard, know better than that. They do not believe what they are saying, nor should they because they are misrepresenting the facts. I will not accept their amendments.

I thank my Government colleagues in respect of amendments Nos. 188 and 189. I will revert to aspects of the matters raised on Report Stage.

I welcome the Minister's statement that he will consider those matters for Report Stage.

To be fair, Deputy McAuliffe might have a slightly different view as to what point I am making. My point is that who delivers homes matters. If public land is sold to a private developer or investment fund - I did not use the word "speculator"; the Minister used it, although he is right that land could also be sold to speculators - and a certain percentage is to be affordable or social, we know from what is happening now that the affordable housing will be at a higher price, in particular because the private sector has to borrow at a higher cost. That is a fact. I looked at one planning application recently where the financing costs were 14% of the total. That would not be the case with public delivery. Since the cost is higher, the affordable purchase price - or the rent if the property is cost rental - will be more expensive. As such, it matters who delivers these affordable homes. It also matters in the case of social housing. If public lands owned by a local authority are acquired by the LDA and sold on to a private developer, the local authority or the State could end up leasing the social homes built on them back at an expensive rate. The local authority building housing directly would be a much better use of resources, as the ESRI pointed out.

Regarding the proposal for 1,200 homes that was voted through in respect of lands in Donabate, I do not agree with the majority of those homes being sold at full market price when they are on public lands. It is a scandal. What the-----

If the Deputy could assist me in the meeting, I do not want us to get into a discussion-----

I am sorry, but the Minister brought it into-----

I know, but I do not want us to debate discussions-----

I was just stating the facts.

(Interruptions).

-----that took place at council level. If Deputy O'Callaghan could just-----

I am trying to respond to the-----

I do not want to stop anyone from speaking and I am trying to be fair to everyone, but we are under time pressure.

I appreciate that, but I have to refute what the Minister said.

If the Deputy could refute it briefly, please.

Returning to Deputy McAuliffe's point, my issue with these provisions is that they will lead to a more expensive private sector delivery, more expensive rents and more expensive purchase costs. While we will nominally get affordable housing, it will not be at the affordable prices it should be. This point has not been addressed by the Minister. In fact, the legislation allows for and facilitates it. I am heavily-----

I thank the Deputy, but is he pressing the amendment?

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 5.

  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.

Níl

  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 187:

In page 39, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“(4) In the case of land that had been acquired originally from a local authority, the land shall be offered for purchase to the local authority at the prevailing market price or the price paid to the local authority at original acquisition, whichever is the lower.”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 5.

  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.

Níl

  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
Amendment declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 55 be deleted."

Is the question agreed?

I want to speak to the section. I have an amendment on deleting the section.

Is it agreed? Agreed.

No. It is not agreed.

Would the Chair mind clarifying the question that is being put?

The question is that section 55 be deleted from the Bill. The section is opposed. We have already discussed this with amendment No. 184. The new section was inserted and now the question for the committee is that section 55 be deleted from the Bill. Is that agreed?

That is on the basis of amendment No. 184 and the new section, the insertion of which we agreed by means of a voice vote.

It is not agreed.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 56
Amendments Nos. 188 and 189 not moved.
Question put: "That section 56 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 4.

  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.

Níl

  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 57

Amendments Nos. 190 and 191 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 190:

In page 39, to delete lines 32 and 33.

I wish to press the amendment.

The Deputy wishes to press the amendment.

I would need to be able to respond to it.

It would be more beneficial for the process if the Minister was able to comment on amendment No. 190 and then move amendment No. 191. This can be facilitated on Thursday morning. I thank Deputies for their co-operation.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The select committee adjourned at 2.29 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 17 June 2021.
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