Councils warned to build new homes or lose powers


The Government is looking at stripping councils’ powers on housing in order to speed up the building of homes.

The clampdown would stop elected councillors holding up housing projects in rows over funding or the social mix of residents. “The future delivery of people’s houses can’t be exposed like this and now we are seeing what can be done,” a senior Government source told the Irish Independent.

The alternative is to give responsibility to build housing on publicly owned land to a powerful new quango.

The move comes as one of the country’s biggest new housing developments was at risk in a funding row.

A batch of 1,500 new homes in Dublin was in jeopardy due to controversy over a private development of public lands.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and fellow ministers are growing increasingly frustrated at delays caused by ideological rows on councils.

Housing projects long in planning are now being put at risk at the last minute in political squabbles.

The issue is now being examined within Government.

"Housing developments into the future can't be that exposed at a council level. There are conversations happening now about what we do about that," the source said.

"It's frustrating as it's a hypocrisy within our system. The councillors give out about homelessness but then won't support any developments."

The Department of Housing is already threatening to pull funding for housing projects if councils do not approve deals with developers.

Now the Government is looking at what further measures can be taken to limit the risk of councils scuppering plans.

The Department of Housing has set up a powerful new quango to prioritise the use of State-owned land for housing.

The Land Development Agency (LDA) is a commercial State-sponsored body. The laws setting out its complete role are still going through the Oireachtas.

However, there is room to expand its scope into an involvement in the delivery of public housing, where councils are currently responsible.

The LDA is expected to take a growing role in the provision of land for housing in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

The agency has first call on any State-owned land becoming available for development.

Mr Murphy is already telling some councils he will be contacting them about their future housing policies.

In a letter to Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe about a housing development in Dublin, the minister hinted at further contacts.

"I will be in touch separately regarding the council's future housing development and available programmes and funding streams," he wrote.

Although not stated specifically, the Irish Independent understands the minister was referring to the prospect of councils being warned about their powers being curtailed if they didn't proceed faster with developments.


Mr Murphy has told Dublin City Council it has no funding in place to buy additional homes in an estate with a mix of private, affordable and social housing. The building of nearly 800 houses in the heart of the capital was at risk in the funding battle.

And this project is linked to another development of 700 homes on the outskirts of the capital city.

The now-derelict O'Devaney Gardens site in Dublin is being rebuilt with 768 new apartments.

The mix of residents will be 50pc private owners, 30pc in social housing and 20pc in affordable housing.

The controversial agreement was only passed after the group in power on the council claimed to have secured an additional 30pc of units in the development for affordable rental housing.

The extra housing would be delivered through a purchase agreement between the private developer, Bartra, and an approved housing body or housing organisation.

Mr Murphy has rubbished claims that a new deal for additional housing for affordable rents was struck.

The minister said no legal advice had been sought by the council to determine whether the inclusion of affordable rental units would breach the procurement process.

Dublin City Council approved the €300m redevelopment of the site by handing over control of the site to the developer.

Failure to do so would have not only jeopardised the O'Devaney Gardens project but also a development at Oscar Traynor Road on the outskirts of the northside of the city.


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