The Land Development Agency : Another neoliberal solution to help property developers

The announcement by the Government of the establishment of the Land Development Agency is just more of the same failed policies that will waste public resources and enrich private developers without delivering the much needed supply of social and affordable housing. It smacks of a Government that refuses to act decisively and use the resources of the State to build directly public houses on land it already owns.

Instead, this new Agency will enter into ‘partnership’ with developers who must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of getting access to prime urban sites. On these prime sites, developers will only have to designate 30% as ‘affordable ‘ housing and a miniscule 10% as social housing. The remaining 60% of the developed units can be sold at market prices – representing the prospect of massive profits for the same developers. This represents an outrageous giveaway to developers of state resources.

And it gets worse. The Government is also proposing that this new quango will facilitate the provision of the services such as sewage and water on these sites so that there will effectively be a subsidy for developers who enter into these partnership arrangements.

If these proposals are implemented, it is clear what will happen next. The experience of recent quangos that entered into so called ‘partnership’ with the private sector (e.g. NAMA) is that the public interest will be subordinated to facilitating and smoothing any impediments to furthering o f the objectives of private interests.

Firstly, the membership of the Board of the new Agency will no doubt be captured by the developer and property lobby. Secondly negotiations around specific sites will very quickly be bogged down because potential developers will impose conditions before any serious building work will begin. The State will accede to their demands because otherwise no development will take place. Ultimately, developers will only seriously get involved when it suits their financial circumstances.

Based on the previous experience of the implementation of Part V (the section of the planning and development act which requires developers to provide social housing), developers will push very strongly to limit the provision of any social or affordable housing units. Their priority will be the building of homes that maximise their profits.

The experience of PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) in the delivery of social and affordable housing is that the economic cycle may well have turned negative by the time the developers are expected to provide these units. Thus many of the developers will withdraw from the delivery of any units citing their financial problems. The end result will be that only a tiny fraction of the promised affordable and social housing units will be delivered.

The Land Development Agency will be just another failed quango that will not deliver the vitally needed homes for Irish people. It is the same neo-liberal ideology that always promises that a ‘partnership’ approach with private capital can meet the needs of the Irish people. It will never work. The needs met are those of the ruling class who control the economy and the State.

Instead the Irish State needs to build homes for ordinary people on public lands. 114,000 homes could be built on land currently owned by the Irish State. This should be done now. The Government should build these homes using directly employed labour by local authorities and fund from exchequer borrowing. Additional homes can be built on land secured through Compulsory Purchase Orders. The State could also act to prevent evictions in the private rented sector and use Compulsory Purchase Orders to obtain long stay vacant houses.

These actions will require of course a different type of Government. A Government that is not beholden to private interests but acts decisively to provide a home for all. The Land Development Agency is more of the same failed policies that will never meet the needs of ordinary Irish people.

Scrap the Land Development Agency and scrap this Government. There is a better alternative!

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