Minister for Housing invested in a foreign property deal that went wrong

Minister O'Brien lost over 50% of his investment in a foreign real estate trust over 10 years ago and has never invested since
Minister for Housing invested in a foreign property deal that went wrong

The Minister for Housing says that he lost over 50% of his investment in a foreign real estate trust over 10 years ago and has not invested since.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has revealed that he lost over 50% of his investment in a foreign real estate trust over 10 years ago and has never invested since.

The Dáil Register of Members' Interests from 2008 shows that Mr O'Brien invested savings into a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) run by Standard Life Assurance. 

REITs had not yet been made legal in Ireland at that time and investors were able to invest in foreign housing markets through companies here.

However, the fund Mr O'Brien invested in was badly affected by the financial crash in 2008 and investors lost over 50% of their money. 

Speaking in Dublin today, Mr O'Brien said there was "nothing more to the investment".

"If anyone is looking for investment advice, don't do what I did. It was a very simple single premium investment product that I declared in 2008 and was then cashed and I lost over 50% of it at the time. There's nothing else to it.

"I rightly declared it and have had no investments since."

Mr O'Brien said that he had invested around €30,000 in the scheme and returned €15,000 when he cashed out.

The Housing Minister has come in for criticism since it was revealed that a REIT had purchased 135 of 170 homes at an estate in Maynooth. 

He said today that he would be discussing the matter with his Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday and while there may not be a finalised proposal to prevent investment funds from buying up family homes, there will likely be a discussion of the options open to the Government.

"We don't want a situation prevailing where family homes are being bought in bulk. 

"We're looking at planning measures that we can take to protect that because this is not a new phenomenon. We need to make sure that first-time buyers are competing with investment funds, because that is not a situation I can stand over as Housing Minister.

"I'm not going to set a limit on what we may do until I know what options we can take legally."

Mr O'Brien said that he was "not trying to keep anything secret" and would have more details on what would happen as the week went on.

He said that the market for first-time buyers had been hit by Covid-19 shutdowns in construction but he hoped that the measures in his Affordable Housing Bill would increase supply. 

He said that the Land Development Agency, which currently has nine sites, would be a "major piece" in solving the housing crisis.

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