Government awaiting legal advice before tackling investor home bulk-buying

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien says he needed to ensure there are no 'unintended consequences' to new regulations, such as inhibiting housing associations from delivering cost rental homes or social homes
Government awaiting legal advice before tackling investor home bulk-buying

Bay Meadows housing development in Dublin 15. All 112 houses have been bought by global investment company Round Hill Capital, to be put on the rental market. Picture: Sam Boal /

Ministers are awaiting "legal advice" before signing off on proposals that would disincentivise bulk-buying of estates by investors.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will work through the weekend in order to bring the new proposals to cabinet on Tuesday, which will focus on "tax and planning".

The Government has come under pressure to halt the practice after 135 three- and four-bed homes in an estate in Maynooth were purchased by Round Hill Capital, pushing first-time buyers out of the market.

The developers of the Mullen Park estate in the Kildare town had been marketing the homes to private buyers since last year, with about 35 sold so far.

After Cabinet signs off on the new regulations, Mr O'Brien said he hoped to have them "implemented very, very shortly thereafter."

"There is an urgency to deal with this issue," he said.

When we bring forward the measures if they're agreed, I would expect them to be in effect in a very short space of time thereafter."

Mr O'Brien added there was "a balance" because "whether people like it or not, investment and international investment is needed".

"We have a shrunken market here with regard to finance and development finance, that's something that we're grappling with too."

Investment is important. There's no question, we need investment to boost supply in the right areas for the right type of developments." 

"Our supply is low, we've got to get our supply up to 33,000 homes a year and that's going to take a bit of time to do with the pandemic.

"But what I want is a level playing pitch for first-time buyers. The measures we bring forward next week are carefully calibrated to make sure that they are, they require Cabinet approval but also to ensure that there are no unintended consequences."

 Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien: 'I want is a level playing pitch for first-time buyers.' Picture:  Eamonn Farrell /
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien: 'I want is a level playing pitch for first-time buyers.' Picture:  Eamonn Farrell /

"We have to look at where we're focusing this at, which is to make sure that we don't have big funds actually hoovering up family homes but I don't want to inhibit housing associations who will be delivering cost rental homes or social homes."

The minister added there were "a number of options" that Government was considering. One is a combination of densities and locations, which some have speculated might mean that institutional investors will still be able to bulk buy in cities. However, it will be more difficult in rural areas.

Mr O'Brien said the reports of Fianna Fáil councillors in Co Cavan voting to rezone residential land for new homes to green spaces despite objections from the senior planner was "disappointing". However, he said was not fully aware of the situation so couldn't comment in detail.

"All local authorities, all public representatives have a responsibility to deliver safe and secure homes for our people. Fundamentally, it's about supply and the supply is constrained when people delay making decisions or frustrate decisions that need to be made."

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