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'Time to bang heads together' at Land Development Agency to tackle housing, says Taoiseach

Ministers have sharply criticised the “glacial pace” of delivering land to build homes by State agencies, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying “it is time to bang heads together”.

At Thursday's Cabinet meeting, ministers discussed the transfer of land from agencies to the Land Development Agency (LDA) with Mr Martin demanding swifter action.

Described as the most “direct” discussion of the whole meeting, there was sharp and near-universal criticism of State bodies and the length of time it is taking to make lands available during a housing emergency.

While there was no criticism of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, nearly every minister at Cabinet spoke out about the delays in terms of delivery.

A trawl of disused hospitals and schools across the country is now to be carried out in a bid to meet the housing crisis as well as dealing with the influx of refugees from Ukraine, the meeting heard.

Mr Martin reportedly told the meeting that the LDA “needs to deliver faster on this and State agencies are taking way too long.” 

“The Taoiseach,” one minister said, “was very strong in his view that it is time to bang heads together” and “there is not enough urgency in making lands available”. The Taoiseach made it clear that delivery needs to be ramped up significantly and officials need to get on top of this, sources said.

“We are all agreed there is a housing crisis so it is deeply frustrating when we are confronted by this slow churning machine which seems to take forever to do anything,” a minister said.

Several ministers described the discussion on the LDA as “good but robust” with several saying the money has been made available to make the LDA work, but it is not happening quickly enough.

Mr Martin and Mr O’Brien said there is a need to ensure as many options as possible are being investigated for the re-purposing of addi­tional State lands and properties for long-term residential use.

Ministers were told that 20 publicly-owned sites, some near railway and bus stations, have been identified and planned for transfer to the LDA.

All departments have been ordered to identify further potential sites within the State’s property portfolio that would be suitable to support housing delivery by both the LDA and local authorities.

Cabinet also agreed that Environment Minister Eamon Ryan and Mr O’Brien are to report back on options to support retrofitting for buildings previously used for something other than residential, which are not already supported under current retrofitting schemes.

Examples of buildings in question might include disused hospitals or schools, which will require significant and costly retrofit, ministers were told.