Bartra lobbied to cut cash-for-residency sum to lure more investors

Scheme payment unchanged at €1m despite claim €500,000 would be more attractive

Bartra founder Richard Barrett: Firm raises cash from investors to build social housing and nursing homes.

Bartra founder Richard Barrett: Firm raises cash from investors to build social housing and nursing homes.

 

Developer Bartra urged the Government to cut the minimum payment required by a State cash-for-residency scheme to €500,000 from €1 million to lure extra investment to the Republic.

More than 1,100 investors from non-EU countries have paid €826.5 million into social housing, healthcare, tourism and other projects in return for the right to live in the Republic through the State’s Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP).

James Hartshorn, Bartra Asia director, confirmed that the company lobbied the Government to cut the minimum investment required under the programme to €500,000 from €1 million, arguing this would make it more attractive to international investors.

The company maintains this would bring the IIP “into line with other EU and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development programmes, for example the current investment threshold in Spain, Greece and Portugal is between €250,000 and €350,000”.

Social housing

Bartra, controlled by businessman Richard Barrett, raises cash from investors through the scheme to build social housing and nursing homes. The company has aided about 200 Chinese citizens and their families to get residency in the Republic through the programme. It intends building 1,000 social homes over the next three years.

The company lobbied then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan for changes to the IIP in 2018. However, his department left the investment rules unchanged following a review by accountants EY.

The Government could come under renewed pressure from business to cut the minimum investment required to €500,000 to aid the Republic’s recovery from the economic damage done by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Sources suggest that there could also be calls to extend the scheme to hospitality and tourism to aid those industries in rebuilding as pandemic curbs are lifted.

Chinese investors

The Department of Justice changed the IIP’s priorities to focus on investment in projects aimed at social housing, nursing homes, primary healthcare facilities and combatting climate change.

Chinese investors accounted for 1,088 of the 1,162 non-EU citizens who have used the IIP to get residency rights for themselves and their families since the Government opened it in 2012. Investors do not get citizenship in return for participating in the programme.

Along with the right to live in the Republic, investors are entitled to have their cash returned after a designated period. This must be a minimum of three years, but most businesses specify four or five.

Investors can also get a return on their cash, depending on the project. Mr Hartshorn pointed out that, in common with all investments, there is also some risk they will lose part or all of their money.

He added that “IIP investors prioritise the return of their capital and have a preference for solid projects in government priority areas of investment”.

Social housing developers lease the homes to local councils or designated housing associations for 25 years, using the rent paid by these bodies to repay their own backers. Healthcare facilities and nursing homes are also leased to the State.