Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke
The Government is set to block investment funds from buying up entire housing estates, according to senior figures involved in the process.
The Irish Times reports that senior Coalition sources confirmed the move had been agreed between the parties, although discussions are continuing on how best to implement the policy.
The decision follows fierce Opposition criticism of the Government on the housing issue, following reports that entire developments of family homes had been bought by investment funds — something Opposition parties and housing campaigners say is squeezing families out of the housing market.
We do have to stop it. We can’t have people being kept out of the market
Speaking this morning, Coalition leader Minister Eamon Ryan said the Government had to stop investors from bulk-buying homes and freezing the public out of the market.
“We do have to stop it. We can’t have people being kept out of the market,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Ryan said that the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien was going to address the issue through the planning process. Different approaches would be required as it was a complex issue. “I believe the best approach is planning.”
The Government was committed to not allowing the housing market to be dominated by investment funds, Mr Ryan said, but added that investors were needed for projects like large apartment buildings.
Mr Ryan said the State needed to operate cost-rental schemes — a rental system where the landlord only charges a rent equal to the cost of the property.
The housing market was not functioning as it was and other measures would be needed, the Minister added.
Mr Ryan said he did not believe that the practice of bulk-buying houses in new estates was widespread, but the Government had to stop it before it became so. That could require legislation, which would take time, he said.
We do not want institutional investors competing with first-time buyers
It comes as yesterday, both the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar expressed unhappiness with the same practice.
Mr Martin told the Dáil the bulk-buying was “unacceptable” and “will be examined”.
“We do not want institutional investors competing with first-time buyers,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said investment funds mostly invested in apartment buildings before or during construction, but there had been a change in recent months to whole housing estates or part of them.
It is government policy to incentivise and support private investment funds to buy up housing across the state. It is government policy to keep a whole generation locked out of affordable housing.
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) May 4, 2021
He said: “It was never intended that they would enter into that part of the market and are taking away properties that could be bought by first-time buyers or upgraders... It’s working against the principle of home ownership.”
The Government was heavily criticised by Opposition politicians in the Dáil. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald later tweeted her belief that the Government was supporting the practice.
“It is government policy to incentivise and support private investment funds to buy up housing across the state. It is government policy to keep a whole generation locked out of affordable housing,” Ms McDonald said.