Minister pledges legislation to tackle investment firms bulk-buying family homes

The Minister for Housing has pledged to introduce new legislation to tackle so-called ‘cuckoo funds’, but says it will not be ready for Cabinet this week
Minister pledges legislation to tackle investment firms bulk-buying family homes

James Ward, PA

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien says he “cannot stand over” a situation where large investment firms are bulk-buying family homes.

The issue has consumed Government in recent weeks, after it emerged that a global investment firm has bought the majority of newly built housing estates in Maynooth and Dublin.

The Minster has pledged to introduce new legislation to tackle the so-called “cuckoo funds”, but has admitted it will not be ready for this week’s Cabinet meeting.

He said: “We don’t want a situation prevailing where family homes are being purchased in bulk. It happened in my own constituency, in Donabate, just over two years ago. So it’s not a new phenomenon, unfortunately.

“I am looking at planning measures that I can bring forward that may help the situation, and I hope will help.

“We’re also working with my colleagues in the Department of Finance to see what measures we can bring forward, and to look at those options this week.

“I don’t expect to have those options for tomorrow.”

He added: “We need to ensure that the measures we bring forward are actually doable and will have a positive impact, to make sure that we don’t have first-time buyers competing against large investment funds.

“That’s not a situation that anyone could stand over, nor indeed that I as housing minister could stand over. ”

Mr O’Brien said the Government will examine all options, including his own legislation from 2019, drafted while he was in opposition, that would ring-fence new homes for first-time buyers.

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan last week threatened to reintroduce the Bill “word for word” in the Dáil, in a bid to provoke a Government response.

Other options being examined by Government include banning cuckoo funds entirely from city centre areas.

 

Mr O’Brien said: “I’m looking at all options, right back to the Bill I published myself back in 2019.

“I’m not going to set a limit on what we may possibly do until I see what legal options we’ve got.

“I will have those options, hopefully in the coming days, and I’ll be in a better position to share what they are with people at that stage.

“I’m assuming there’s going to be a discussion on it at Cabinet tomorrow. We may have the outline of some options tomorrow. But I’m not expecting a Cabinet decision tomorrow.”

The involvement of real estate investment trusts (REITs) or “cuckoo funds” in the housing market has been heavily criticised.

Opposition parties say housing policy over the last 10 years has incentivised the firms, as they pay no corporation tax, no capital gains tax, and minimal stamp duty.

The Taoiseach said last week the current situation was “not acceptable” and not in line with Government policy.

On Monday, Mr O'Brien admitted to losing approximately €15,000 after investing in a “cuckoo fund” in 2008.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reported Mr O’Brien had declared an interest in a global REIT fund run by Standard Life Assurance in 2008, having invested savings in the firm.

Mr O’Brien confirmed on Monday that he had invested around €30,000 in the product, and made a loss of 50 per cent.

“If anyone’s looking for investment advice don’t do what I did” he said.

“It was a very simple single premium investment product, which I declared as always, as I should have.”

Mr O’Brien said he has no other investments to declare at present.

He was speaking at the launch of the annual report by housing charity the Peter McVerry Trust.

The charity also launched its latest social housing scheme, a new build block of eight apartments, at New Street South in Dublin 8.

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