Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in blame game over vulture fund housing controversy

The Government has faced strong criticism both inside and outside the Dáil for allowing foreign investors to continue to buy up large numbers of family homes
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in blame game over vulture fund housing controversy

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have blamed each other for the current housing controversy which has seen thousands of homes end up in the hands of vulture funds. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have blamed each other for the current housing controversy which has seen thousands of homes end up in the hands of vulture funds.

Fianna Fáil TDs launched a stinging attack on Fine Gael over housing at their parliamentary party meeting, however, at a private Fine Gael meeting Tánaiste Leo Varadkar moved to distance his party from the housing portfolio.

Members of Mr Varadkar's own party warned him that Fine Gael will face "enormous political consequences" if they do not tackle vulture funds buying up housing estates.

During a “bells and whistles” presentation, Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien dubbed the sale of properties to international investors a “legacy issue” which happened before Fianna Fáil came into government. He told colleagues that the Department of Finance has a significant role in this and he is engaging with Minister Paschal Donohoe on it.

Anger

John Lahart became “very angry” according to a TD present, over the institutional investor funds and the lack of action on them, and said in his area young adults are returning “in droves” to their parents' houses.

“Only for Covid they’d be marching on streets... and I’d be with them,” he said.

James O'Connor raised the issue of access to credit for younger buyers and builders.

Mr O Connor said Mr Donohoe “needs to do more to tackle this issue”. Stating that the situation is now out of control and that house prices are rocketing according to auctioneers.

Dublin Bay South TD Jim O Callaghan suggested limiting purchases to one home per buyer using the affordable housing bill and not finance measures.

Separately Mr Varadkar told his TDs and senators that Fine Gael do not control the housing department but “we as a party need to help Minister Darragh O'Brien” in resolving the problem.

Leo Varadkar told his TDs and senators that Fine Gael do not control the housing department but “we as a party need to help Minister Darragh O'Brien” in resolving the problem.
Leo Varadkar told his TDs and senators that Fine Gael do not control the housing department but “we as a party need to help Minister Darragh O'Brien” in resolving the problem.

Mr Varadkar told members that a lot of work is required and solutions are needed but added that the Government is making great progress on social housing.

At least eight TDs and senators lined up to speak on the issue and there were passionate contributions during a private meeting of the parliamentary party last night.

Significant problems

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin called for a reversal of property market incentives brought in by former Finance Minister Michael Noonan as he said it was a "different world" when the measures were introduced.

"If we sit late or at weekends, let's get legislation through to stop investment funds buying homes," he told members of his own party.

Mr Griffin said there are significant problems in scenic regions, including his own county, where people can't build houses because of restrictions but can't purchase a house because holiday home buyers are pushing up prices beyond their reach. He said this is particularly bad in the Kerry Gaeltacht which means young Irish speakers are being forced out.

It is understood the Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan said the political consequences of not addressing the problem will be enormous, while Galway senator Sean Kyne said it would be very difficult to regain the votes of people aged in their 20s and 30s if action is not taken.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe described it as a "balancing act" but said he does not support these funds coming in and purchasing properties that have already been built.

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