Thursday, 11 April 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Across the country there are many thousands of people who wish to buy their own homes or apartments. They are working, multiple jobs in some cases, and many of them have moved home to have the opportunity to save the deposit. They pay enormous and rising rents and because of the size of those rents it is even harder to save a deposit. They are now faced with a new challenge, that after putting the deposit together, as in a case I came across in Dundrum during the week, and paying a booking deposit, funds are swooping in to buy entire stocks of apartment developments and housing estates around Dublin and the country, leaving these people who are working and saving hard and making enormous sacrifices without access to a first-time home and apartment.
We accept there are many challenges in this housing crisis and many decisions to be taken but Government has control over some areas and this is one where it can begin to make a difference. Legislation in 2013 for these real estate investment trusts, REITs, introduced them into Ireland. It was an ideological position taken at the time to stimulate the development of homes in 2013. That was six years ago. Now, in 2019, these funds are straying far beyond what was intended for them. They are known colloquially as cuckoo funds, they are faceless and profit driven and are swooping in to buy estates and apartment blocks in Balbriggan, Dundrum, Lusk, in Deputy Curran's and Deputy Jack Chambers' constituencies, any number of constituencies, but also outside Dublin, thereby depriving people of that chance to get on the home ownership ladder and forcing people to travel and commute longer distances to work, to continue to live at home with their families well beyond the point when it is sustainable to do so.
These funds are not subject to corporation tax on their Irish property profits or gains. They have no obligation to report what they make in profits here to the Revenue Commissioners. Last Monday's Irish Independentmade for chilling reading because it showed that 3,000 homes were snapped up by these big corporations last year, five times more than in 2017 and €1.1 billion was being spent by these funds. All the time rents will rise by a further 17%. We are leaving people to the penury of rent, standing by while those rents increase, depriving them of the opportunity to save for the deposit. Would the Tánaiste agree that it is time to shout stop? It is time that the modus operandi of these funds, buying entire developments either off plan or after building, needs to be curtailed. It should not happen that somebody can work incredibly hard to put down a booking deposit and then be told that the entire development has been taken from them, as happened the people I met in Dundrum on Tuesday night. Is it time to curtail the advantages and to buy entire developments? Would the Tánaiste not agree that it is time to give people a chance to get on the housing ladder?