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Speech of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Launch of the Land Development Agency Thursday, 13 September 2018

 
Issued by the Government Information Service
10 September 2018
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Good morning everyone.

 

I am delighted to be here with my Ministerial colleagues, Minister Murphy, Minister Donohoe, Minister Doherty, Minister Humphreys and also Technology Presidents Deputy Farrell and Deputy Bailey here as well. It’s great to be back here in Áras Mhic Dhiarmada where I was the Minister here for about a year or so and it’s always exciting to come back to this building, which is an iconic building in fact in Dublin. I’m not sure if it’s true or not but I was told when this building was originally designed this room wasn’t intended to be a canteen for the civil service, it was intended to be a nightclub and one of the lifts actually goes straight to the top floor, but anyway I thought I’d let you know that.

The reason we are here today is, as you all know, is to formally establish the new Land Development Agency. This isn’t an announcement or a statement of intent, the Ministerial order to establish it was signed this morning and the agency is now in existence.

 

As I think everyone very much knows, we have a housing shortage in Ireland and we all see in our daily lives the impact that is having on our citizens. Whether it’s young couples who want to buy a home, young couples who have mortgage approval who can afford to buy who’s mortgage would probably cost less than the rent they are paying but cannot do so because there is inadequate supply and of course that has a knock-on effect in driving up rents and has a knock on effect in terms of rising homelessness.

So, at the centre of the solution or core to the solution is there has to be more supply, more supply of houses all over the country, more supply of apartments in particular in our towns and cities.

 

It’s not a solution in itself but it’s definitely the main part of the solution and we are making, real progress in terms of supply. 14,500 new homes were built in Ireland last year, and that doesn’t include vacant homes brought back into use, doesn’t include student accommodation, that doesn’t include houses that have been reconnected to electric network that had been out of use for a number of years. 14,500 new homes built in Ireland last year, that’s up from 9,000 the year before, up from about 5,000 the year before that.

So at least in terms of housing supply, we’re going in the right direction again. But it’s definitely not enough. Last year Ireland’s population increased by 65,000. And that doesn’t mean we need 65,000 new homes but it probably does mean we need about 30,000 new homes every year and we are not there yet. So what we need now is to accelerate and sustain the progress that has been made in the last couple of years, and that’s very much what this event isn’t about. It’s not about setting up a new agency for the sake of it, it’s about solving a real problem effecting our economy and society, driving supply in the housing market, of housing, apartments and homes people need to buy and rent.

 

Today we are laying a New Foundation by making a decisive intervention in the housing market in Ireland, so the market starts working for the people again.

 

Since independence, the state has intervened where private enterprise isn’t functioning or where the private enterprise has been too timid to enter.

 

In the 1920s for example, one of the first free-state government, the ESB was established and they harness the potential of the River Shannon to provide energy and independence for Ireland.

 

In the 1930s, when the private sector wasn’t sure whether aviation would really ever work out, whether planes and airports had a future, the government decided to intervene and established Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta thus connecting Ireland to the world.

 

And when it comes to an event like this, I’m very much reminded and inspired by the words of Taoiseach, Séan Lemass, speaking in 1961, who set-out eloquently his vision of how state-owned enterprises should operate.  He said ‘State enterprise in fields of activity where private enterprise hasn’t functioned, or shown itself to be disinterested, has not only been accepted but now is expected.’ And that was on foot of the success of bodies like Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, ESB and IDA. The Land Development Agency very much follows in the footsteps of those other great national projects which helped to make modern Ireland.

 

We’ve learned that where private enterprise isn’t serving the interest of the people or lacks interest or ambition, then new state enterprises and new state agencies are required. And this is a cornerstone initiative of Project Ireland 2040; a Land Development Agency to ensure a more effective approach to land management, particularly in terms of publicly owned land but not exclusively.

 

We want to harness publicly owned assets to deliver:

  • more affordable housing;
  • a better and more stable supply of ready-to-go land available for development; as well as
  • jobs and social facilities in under-utilised city and town centre areas of which there are so many. 

 

 

 

 

 

This Agency will be a catalyst in regenerating town and village centres, and all of our cities in line with the policy of smart compact growth, to improve the viability and liveability of our urban centres.

 

Working in the best interests of our country and everyone who lives here, it will partner with local authorities, Government Departments and State agencies and State owned enterprises. 

And it will ensure that we lose no time in optimising those strategic land banks.  Significantly, it will deal with land-owning bodies on a commercial basis.

 

The LDA will have teeth, both in terms of capital resources behind it and powers, and we will underpin this in primary legislation that will be enacted during the course of 2019.

 

Staffed by people with both the necessary experience and proven track records, it will hit the ground running. 

 

And I want to take this opportunity to welcome on board the interim Chief Executive of the new Agency, John Coleman, who is here with us today. Also the initial core management team, Phelim O’Neill and Barry O’Brien, and I want to wish them the best in their new roles.

 

Until now, the problem with land management in this country was that a large piece of the jigsaw was missing.  This Agency allows us to put that picture together. 

 

Because there are three things that are required to succeed:

  • Capital,
  • Land, and
  • Capability.

 

By combining all three we can expedite and accelerate the supply of housing and other development. We can also build and replenish public land interests on a continual basis over the longer-term.

 

It means we can adopt a strategic and prudent approach, one that is not subject to economic cycles.  And having learned from the mistakes from the past, from the boom-bust property market and all the harm and hurt it caused, we are now planning more strategically for the future.  We want to use public assets and capacity to rejuvenate our cities, towns and villages under Project Ireland 2040, for the benefit of all our people and all parts of our country.  

 

This is an investment by us in the future, and a reminder of what can be achieved when government and public enterprise work together. 

 

Thank you very much.