Land Development Agency Bill 2021

On 5 February 2021, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (the “Minister”), Darragh O’ Brien, published the Land Development Agency Bill 2021 (the “Bill”).

The Land Development Agency (the “Agency”) was first established in September 2018 but the Bill will place the Agency on a statutory footing. The Agency will be formed as a Designated Activity Company (“DAC”) pursuant to the Companies act 2014 (as amended) and will have the ability to form subsidiaries where required.  

Under the Bill, the main goal of the Agency will be to regulate, develop and regenerate public land for the delivery of housing to address deficiencies in the housing market.

It hopes to achieve this by ensuring that public land that is not being utilised, or that is being under-utilised, is made available for housing and that, if required, urgent measures can be taken to increase the supply of housing with a particular emphasis on affordable and social housing.

Functions

 A broad range of functions are conferred on the Agency under the Bill and these include;

  • To manage and develop relevant public land for the provision of housing for rent or purchase.
  • To develop or facilitate the development of large-scale local authority sites for housing and, in some cases, mixed use development.
  • The acquisition of public land and other land and to dispose of land owned by the Agency where necessary.
  • To enter into commercial contracts and other commercial arrangements with local authorities or other parties for the development of public land and land this is privately owned.

Local Authorities

The Bill also envisages the Agency providing services to local authorities where a local authority requests such services. These services would include the preparation of plans and the performance of appraisals of the development potential of sites, the provision of infrastructure to service the sites for housing and also the management of cost rental housing. These services would only be provided by the Agency in respect of sites that are large scale, multi-tenure or mixed-use development sites or that are located in the area of a town with a population of 30,000 people or more. The sites would also have to be on lands owned by the relevant local authority. 

Register

Part 7 of the Bill requires the Agency to establish and maintain a register of all public land and other land owned by the Agency and this register is to be known as the Register of Relevant Public Land (the “Register”).

For every entry appearing on the Register the Agency must ensure that a description including the area and location of the land and an ordnance survey or other suitable map of the land is included.

The Agency must also publish the Register and make sure it is available for inspection on its website.

Compulsory Purchase

The powers of the Agency to compulsorily acquire land are outlined in Part 8 of the Bill. These powers may only be used where the Agency has first made a reasonable attempt to acquire the land by means of agreement.

If no such agreement can be reached and the Agency is of the opinion that the land is necessary to provide access to relevant public land or land owned by the Agency or the land is necessary for the provision of roads, services and utilities required for housing on public land or land owned by the Agency then the Agency can compulsorily acquire this land.  

An application must be made to the courts by the Agency for an acquisition order where it intends to make a compulsory acquisition of land and any person with an estate or interest in the land may lodge an objection to the acquisition order and outline the grounds on which the objection is based. Where a compulsory purchase order is granted the means for determining any compensation due is outlined in Clause 67 of the Bill.

Social and Affordable Housing

As previously stated, one of the main objectives of the Bill is the provision of affordable and social housing. It aims to achieve this by including a requirement for a proportion of housing constructed on relevant public land to be affordable or social housing.

Part 9 of the Bill outlines how this requirement is to be met and states that on the application for planning permission for housing on public land, the applicant must enter into an agreement with the planning authority. This agreement provides that, on completion of the housing development on the public land, 50% of the housing will be transferred to the planning authority for the provision of cost rental housing or housing for sale or a combination of both.

The Bill does allow for the Government, by order, and at the request of the Minister to exempt public land from this requirement in certain circumstances and it also permits the Minister to alter the percentage of housing to be provided to the planning authority. The Minster may set a higher or lower percentage for a particular agreement and may also set different percentages for different geographical or administrative areas.       

Conclusion

The Government has stated its commitment to the long-term funding of the Agency and the Bill also enables the Agency, and any subsidiary DAC’s, to borrow funds up to a total of €1.25 billion. According to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the initial focus of the Bill will be on public lands in towns with populations of over 10,000 people. The Bill went through its second stage in Dail Eireann on 17 February 2021 with the next stage due to be the Committee Stage, where it is examined section by section and where any amendments may be made. Once the Bill has been signed into law it is hoped that it will achieve its goal of combatting long-term housing shortages and providing a stable and sustainable supply of land for housing.   

For further information please contact Ruairi O'Malley (Solicitor), or your usual AMOSS contact. 

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