Positive news on the housing front.

The Land Development Agency, the State body charged with delivering affordable homes and social housing on public land, is to begin a programme of purchasing privately owned sites that can be utilised for quick delivery of public housing.

The departure is expected to be announced on Friday. It will mean the agency seeks expressions of interest from landowners and developers willing to sell sites on which public, social and affordable housing projects can move quickly to construction.

The programme of land acquisitions will be open to all landowners, but will focus initially on large sites, with existing planning permission for 200-plus homes, near the five main cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. It is expected to be of particular interest to developers sitting on large sites, either in anticipation of increasing value, or because they lack the finance or capacity to build them out.

Sites will be assessed according to criteria such as transport links, development viability and building cost efficiencies, according to people familiar with the scheme. Sites close to existing State-owned lands will be of particular interest to the agency.

The agency says it is “working with public bodies to identify State-owned lands suitable for acquisition and the advancement of housing delivery”. It is also involved in plans for new communities and housing delivery on several strategic State-owned parcels of land, it says.

The agency has planning permission for more than 3,500 homes on State-owned lands with many projects already under construction, including 265 at St Kevin’s Hospital in Cork, almost 600 on a site in Shanaganagh, more than 800 units in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, 850 on the former central mental hospital site in Dundrum, south Dublin and 543 at St Teresa’s Gardens in the capital’s south inner city in partnership with Dublin City Council.