By Michelle Devane, PA
The mood of a generation of young people can be summed up as “one of exasperation” over the Government’s housing failures, the leader of the opposition has said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the coalition Government of enabling and encouraging wealthy investment firms to buy up family homes with “cushy tax deals” when it should be “moving heaven and earth” to do everything possible to make housing affordable.
During Leaders’ Questions Ms McDonald told the Dáil that in 2019 six out of 10 homes in Dublin were taken off the market and the vast majority were sold to the investment funds and that in the last four weeks 400 houses have been “snapped up” by these funds.
“It’s a very daunting prospect for young people who scrimp and save and make enormous sacrifices to put themselves in a position, if they’re lucky, to have a deposit to buy a home,” she said.
“But these investment funds, not only rob people of the chance to buy their own homes but also push up house prices, in some cases by as much as €80,000.”
'Win win' situation
The Dublin Central TD said it was a “win, win” situation for investment firms operating in this country at present and that it was happening against the backdrop of what she called the Minister for Housing’s “utterly discredited” housing bill.
“You’ve created an affordable housing plan that can make houses even more expensive and even by your standards that’s some achievement,” Ms McDonald said.
“Is it any wonder the mood of a generation is one of exasperation?”
The issue of large investment firms bulk-buying family homes 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.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has pledged to introduce new legislation to tackle the so-called “cuckoo funds”.
In response to Ms McDonald, the Taoiseach said the Government is opposed to investment funds “taking over or buying out estates that are already built”.
“The original purpose of them was to add to supply not to take over existing supply and to compete with first-time buyers,” Micheál Martin said.
“Our priority remains the first-time buyer and we want home ownership to increase.”
“We don’t want investment funds competing with first-time buyers and certainly not out there buying housing estates.
“We do not want that, we oppose that,” he added.
Mr Martin said the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Housing will be bringing proposals to Government to address the situation.
But he did not give a timeframe as to when this may happen.
Mr Martin accused Sinn Féin of trying to “frustrate” attempts to get housing built in the country.
He told Ms McDonald that her party had questions to answer about what he described as the party’s “serious objections to substantial housing programmes” which it had “voted down on too many occasions”.
“That can’t go on,” he said.
“Maybe it’s in your interests to frustrate the attempts to get housing built or to impede progress.”
The Fianna Fáil leader also told the Dáil that housing is the Government’s number one priority but that it had been dealing with an unprecedented global pandemic since it took office 10 months ago.
“Housing is our number one collective responsibility as we emerge from Covid-19 to give young people an opportunity for home ownership,” he said.
“That’s something I’m passionately committed to.”