A building site on the Borris Road in Portlaoise
A new law to increase the supply of housing means Portlaoise, Tullamore and every other town in Laois and Offaly will benefit from assistance to develop sites for building new homes, according to Laois Offaly Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.
He was speaking in the Dáil on the Government Land Development Agency Bill (LDA) where he said the law will not help families or Laois and Offaly.
“There are serious problems in housing provision for workers and families whose income is just above the threshold for council housing, but not high enough to ever get a mortgage from a lending facility. Trapped in private rental housing without rent controls or security of tenure. The Governments Land Development Agency will do little to resolve that issue and will most likely make it even worse," he said.
He claimed that Laois would lose out.
“I also want to highlight that we have the Land Aggregation Scheme which currently manages five state-owned sites in Laois alone. There is a total of 40 acres suitable for housing, but the State has no plans in place for housing development on those sites.
“I note that the Government's Bill will only assist in the development of sites in areas with populations over 30,000. That will exclude all of Laois and Offaly," he said.
The Laois Offaly poll topper said councils have delivered.
"There has been much said about local authorities ability to deliver. Laois County Council, a small local authority, will house 150 families in new housing in the space of six or seven weeks. This shows that even small local authorities have the ability to deliver new social housing," he said.
The TD attacked other elements.
“I want to highlight a number of provisions in the Bill. It defines affordable housing as ‘the median price’ in that particular geographical area. The issue is that the median price is calculated on all modest homes and mansions. The Minister knows that this pulls up the price artificially and makes it too high for the people looking to buy. It’s an inflated cost that the average family or worker can’t afford.
“Secondly, the legislation compels the LDA to pay the full market price for land from public agencies, even if the land had a low, existing use value. This will drive up land inflation and therefore the cost of LDA homes.
“Thirdly, you are now establishing another layer of quangos to be called “designated activity companies”. Some of them will be joint ventures, which strips power away from democratically elected councils," he said.
He lashed that law as a 'bill for developers'.
“It is disappointing to see another housing measure that is based on the conservative ideology by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Unfortunately, it will fail to deliver social housing. In reality, this piece of legislation will increase house prices and push affordable homes further out of reach of ordinary workers and families. This is a bill for developers," he said.
Dep Stanley said his party has its own ideas on how houses can be built.
“Sinn Féin has published its alternative to the Governments legislation. We have a detailed proposal for a new agency with strong CPO powers that will deliver an average of 20,000 council homes annually for 5 years. The homes will be a mix of affordable to purchase, social and cost rental. We mean truly affordable for low and middle-income workers. That group which is stuck in the middle and locked out of owning or renting a home," he said.