Thursday, 11 November 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Real Estate Investment Trusts
1. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he plans to attend the proposed investor roadshows to attract large institutional investors into the Irish residential market; the number of these roadshows that are planned; the location and when they will take place; and the sort of investors he plans to meet if new incentives are being offered to these funds. [55415/21]
The Minister might help us clear up some confusion the Taoiseach has caused in recent days. Will he confirm that on foot of engagement from his Department, the Department of Finance is to organise a roadshow for institutional investors in the residential property market, including so-called cuckoo funds, to "reassure" those investors, in the words of the Department of Finance, following moves introduced by the Government to try to reduce the level of bulk-buying of family homes by such funds earlier this year?
This question demonstrates Sinn Féin's priorities in housing. It gets two priority questions every six weeks, and it did not ask about rent, homelessness, affordable housing or building capacity in the construction sector but has raised this non-issue. It has done so, and deems it as important, because it wants to create a controversy and sow discontent. It wants to put its own sinister, disingenuous slant on this. The tactic is reprehensible. I watched the party leader earlier in the week and the attitude she had on this, trying to create this issue that does not exist. It is dishonest and the Deputy knows it is.
That is irrelevant, however. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The Deputy should be better than this. He should be honest with people. He has a responsibility as a Deputy and legislator but his priority is to raise a non-issue to create a controversy. As he knows, I have no plans to attend any of the proposed events he referenced. The action in Housing for All relates to ensuring there is investment in the Irish property market. Ironically, the Deputy's party leader said Ireland should be open for investment. What does he want? We are investing €4 billion a year through Housing for All, which is €1.2 billion more than the Deputy's party proposed in its 12-page submission to the strategy. Where will the rest of the capital come from?
I have no plans to attend any such proposed events. Perhaps we can get onto some real issues.
I am quite confused. When the Minister was in opposition, he was very vocal, and rightly so, about the impact of certain categories of investors, which he called cuckoo funds, and the impact they were having on the affordability crisis. This question is about affordability because the Government continues to pursue the same policies as the previous Government, incentivising the wrong kinds of investors into the residential property market, to buy up homes - not build them - from under the noses of buyers. Given the excessive tax breaks they get from the Government, they are able to outbid not only buyers but approved housing bodies, local authorities and others. Sinn Féin is doing nothing other than reporting on a memo secured under freedom of information by Craig Hughes from the Mail on Sunday, in which the Department of Finance stated these investors, investors the Minister called cuckoo funds, were spooked and that the Minister needed to engage with them to reassure them Ireland is open for business.
Perhaps he will treat the question with the same seriousness with which he addressed this issue when he was in opposition, or perhaps it is another one of the commitments he has abandoned now that he has become Minister.
I am very serious about the housing crisis and the challenges this country faces, about the people on our social housing waiting list and about the 8,475 people who do not have a home or are homeless. The Government has a plan with 213 actions to tackle it. We have introduced the Affordable Housing Act, which Sinn Féin supported even though it criticised it throughout its passage, and a reformed Land Development Agency to build on State land to increase supply, which is what we need to do, but Sinn Féin voted against that. In the case of most other legislation we have introduced as a Government, while Sinn Féin has criticised it, it has ended up supporting it.
The Deputy proposes non-ideas. This is a non-issue and he knows it. This is what he deems to be a priority. This is Sinn Féin's priority. Once every six weeks, it gets to ask two priority questions, and the Deputy is raising an issue to try to stir up a controversy that does not exist. I reiterate there are no plans such as those he suggested.
It is clear the Minister has absolutely changed his position now that he is in office compared with when he was in opposition. When he was in opposition, he rightly highlighted the distorting impact of certain categories of investors, which he called cuckoo funds, on people's ability to buy homes. The mealy-mouthed measure the Minister introduced earlier this year, of a mere 8% increase in stamp duty, will do nothing to stop this category of investor bulk-buying at inflated prices homes that should be bought either by working people and families or by approved housing bodies and local authorities for social and affordable homes.
Again, the origin of this story is a memo from the Department of Finance at the request of officials from the Minister's Department to set up a roadshow to reassure these same investors. That he cannot just honestly admit there was a proposal to do that, and that he is now saying he will not attend such events because he is fearful of the political backlash, shows he is not serious about tackling an issue he claims he was serious about in opposition. It is time to stop these funds buying up homes from working families, something he promised but has failed to do.
We are making the largest intervention any government or the State has ever made in housing in Housing for All, a fully financed, multi-annual plan, backed by more than €20 billion, more than Sinn Féin sought. We have banned bulk-buying of family homes and duplexes. Just this week, we introduced an owner-occupier guarantee, which will come forward in the large-scale residential development, LSRD, Bill, which I assume the Deputy will support. An Bord Pleanála, in the conditions of two recent decisions on planning permission, has underpinned what the Government did and has restricted the sale of any of those properties to more than one individual.
They are the facts, but they do not matter to the Deputy because what he wants is a video clip for social media. He continues to want to try to create a story and issue that does not exist. Is Ireland is open for investment, in Sinn Féin's view? Does it want investment? We need investment of about €20 billion, or €12 billion a year, in housing. Is Sinn Féin going to provide all of that?