Government accused of enabling housing 'bloodsucker rampage' 

Leo Varadkar said proposals are being developed to ensure that funds are not able to buy up entire housing estates
Government accused of enabling housing 'bloodsucker rampage' 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar came under a barrage of criticism from opposition TDs over the role of foreign investment funds in the Irish housing market. Picture: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

The behaviour of investment funds as a "rampage" by "bloodsuckers" through the property market was encouraged by the Government, the Dáil has heard.

During a fiery session of Leaders’ Questions, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar came under significant fire from Opposition TDs who en masse sought answers on the role of these foreign funds in the property market.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, said Mr Varadkar was seeking to act like this is an isolated mistake.

Instead, Mr Boyd Barrett said this was in fact a result of a direct, deliberate and ideological policy by successive Fine Gael-led governments.

The Dáil heard that former finance minister Michael Noonan held 65 meetings with vulture funds and invited them in to commence the rampage, as described by Mr Boyd Barrett.

The Dun Laoghaire TD said he and his colleagues had a decade ago argued that  Nama land should have been used to deal with the housing shortage but they were ignored. 

He said that so-called cuckoo funds have moved on to buying new estates as well, pricing ordinary working people out of the market.

Responding, Mr Varadkar told TDs that when such funds were allowed enter into Ireland, the property market was in a very different space.

Mr Varadkar said the average price of a home sold last year was €270,000, and affordable schemes will be at that figure or below it.

Mr Varadkar said that investment funds have a role to play in the market, making the point that large-scale developments in Dublin and other key urban areas would not have happened were it not for them.

The Tánaiste added that had those developments not happened, there would have been higher prices, rents, and homelessness figures.

Responding to Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea, Mr Varadkar said what happened in Maynooth, as reported last weekend, was an unintended consequence.

In tackling that unintended consequence, Mr Varadkar said the government will want to avoid a reduction in supply by banning forms of private investment:

I know that Mr O'Brien and Mr Donohoe are treating this with urgency, and we will have proposals soon.

Mr O’Dea had called for a timeline as to when the solution will be in place and said other developments are set to be “swooped upon” very soon.

Sinn Féin's deputy leader and finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Fine Gael-led Government have cheer-led and turbo-charged those vulture funds.

The Donegal TD sought clarity from Mr Varadkar as to what Government will do to alter the tax position and perks for such funds.

Defending its record, Mr Varadkar insisted that Government believes in home ownership and that they want to make that a reality for young people in this country.

Proposals are being developed to ensure that funds are not able to buy up entire housing estates, he said.

Also at Leaders’ Questions, Social Democrats co-leader, Róisín Shortall, slammed Fianna Fáil for causing the property market crash in 2008 and Fine Gael for then allowing vulture funds “loose on the carcass” for a decade with tax incentives and fast-track planning.

Mr Varadkar said that it was the ideology of everyone on this house that people who work hard, who have a decent income or an average income, or even lower than average income, should be able to buy their own home.

 

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