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Selling public land to highest bidder is 'not the best option', surveyors warn

The Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland has also raised concerns over vacant properties in Ireland.

File photo
File photo
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD review the selling of public lands to the highest bidder, according to the Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland (SCSI). 

In its pre-Budget submission, the SCSI said that selling land to the highest bidder is “not the best option” for affordable housing delivery. 

The development of land can cost more than 40% of the total delivery costs of housing in Ireland, according to a recent SCSI study. 

“Selling public land to the highest bidder is not the best option for affordable housing delivery or indeed public policy generally,” the society said. 

“In Germany, the methodology is to value the site, the allocate it to a particular type of delivery and then sell it competitively with the price fixed at the valuation level for the ‘best’ scheme.” 

The concept of selling lands at sustainable levels, going against the usual approach of selling to the highest bidder, is being assessed by the UK currently. 

“The pursuit of the highest offer is not always the best option for public policy. It is important that the priority is reached which is to deliver housing at affordable levels,” the society said. 

The SCSI has also called for the release of state land to allow the delivery of more affordable homes in areas of high demands. 

Delivery of social housing

Last week, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy warned a number of local councils that he will step in and use emergency powers if they fail to make progress on the housing crisis. 

The minister told reporters at the Fine Gael party think-in in Galway today that he has written to “two or three” local authorities that he feels are not taking sufficient action.

However, in its submission, the SCSI said that “local authority delivery is close to the required annual target”. 

It did say, however, that there are competing demands at play. For example, it noted that local authorities taking stock from the private market reduces the supply of affordable properties from the private sector. 

Vacant properties

Another area that the SCSI highlighted in its submission is the high number of vacant and underutilised residential units around the country. 

12% of the housing stock in Ireland is vacant, according to the Central Statistics Office. 

While the government introduced a number of funding mechanisms and grants to incentivise property owners to put property back into use in recent years, the society said take up of the schemes has been extremely low. 

It also noted that a €140 million Repair and Leasing scheme has been largely unused. 

In a recent response to TheJournal.ie, Dublin City Council confirmed that it is currently in possession of around 590 vacant properties. 

“Vacant property could provide a much-needed source of housing while also helping with the regeneration of our towns and villages,” SCSI director general Áine Myler said. 

“We need to know why so many properties are vacant and why the take up of these schemes is so low. Is it due to a skills shortage within the industry or is the building and planning regulatory regime the main challenge?” she said. 

Given the extent of the housing crisis, Myler said a comprehensive study needs to be carried out to ascertain why so many properties are lying vacant. 

The Department of Housing has been contacted for comment. 

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