Focus Ireland has urged the Government to implement legislation to protect vulnerable homeowners and tenants from vulture funds, warning that thousands of people could be at risk of being removed from their homes.
The organisation launched the campaign claiming the Government needed to target the funds which were making profits thanks to weak laws and loopholes.
Recent figures issued by the Central Bank showed up to 47,000 Irish homes are now owned by vulture funds, and Focus Ireland has used that data to estimate the likely number of such properties around the country.
One example was for Cork. Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said: “If you look at the CSO data on the permanent housing units in each county and do a proportional breakdown, we estimate that there are 5,344 vulture fund-owned homes in Cork.
"That worrying figure shows exactly how the vultures have extended their reach into communities across the country.”
Focus Ireland estimates that more than 13,000 properties in Dublin are owned by vulture funds, while more than 2,500 properties in Galway may be owned by such funds.
It said its ‘vulture shock’ campaign was being launched as the Central Bank indicated that it was not satisfied with the approach taken by the Department of Finance to the regulation of the funds. It also said there was a heightened risk of more evictions unless the issue was tackled.
“Focus Ireland is calling for Government action to stop more vulture funds swooping on Ireland for the easy profits to be made by exploiting tax loopholes and weak legislation,” Mike Allen said.
“This serious threat to Irish homes first hit the headlines this year when a vulture fund bought an apartment complex in Tyrrelstown [in Co Dublin] and tried to evict the tenants. It is shocking to realise that whether you own or rent, vultures could swoop on your home in this way.”
Those behind the campaign are urging government action in a number of areas, spearheaded by three key elements: limiting the sale of residential debt to international funds and closure of tax loopholes to ensure that vulture funds pay proper tax; removing the ‘sale of property’ as grounds for termination of a tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act — as is the norm in many other countries; and strengthening the code of conduct on mortgage arrears and include buy-to-let owners and tenants.
In light of new figures published earlier this week which showed more than 2,000 children now homeless in Dublin and soaring rental prices which have now outstripped the peaks seen in the Celtic Tiger years, others have also asked that sale of property not be permitted as a reason for people being asked to leave a property.
The Programme for Partnership Government contains a commitment to provide “greater protection for mortgage holders and tenants and SMEs whose loans have been transferred to non-regulated entities (‘vulture funds’)”.
Mike Allen said it was “totally unacceptable” that the State was not providing proper protection to mortgage holders and vulnerable families and individuals in buy-to-let properties.
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