Rules blocking bulk buying of housing diverts 50,000 units to owner-occupiers, say officials

Coalition committed to ensuring newly built houses available to first-time buyers and owner-occupiers, says Taoiseach

The planning guidelines came about after the proposed sale of most homes in a new housing estate, Mullen Park, Maynooth, to one company. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill

Planning guidelines aimed at preventing the bulk buying of housing by investment funds have led to almost 50,000 homes being ring-fenced for owner-occupiers, officials estimate.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is expected to provide an update to Cabinet on the section 28 planning guidelines brought in amid concern over investment funds buying up whole housing estates in 2021.

The guidelines for planning authorities aim to provide an owner-occupier guarantee by ensuring that own-door homes in housing developments can no longer be bulk purchased by institutional investors.

The guidelines include a requirement for new planning permissions that all houses would have to be made available for sale and first occupation by separate, individual households for a set period after the completion of the homes.


There is an exemption for housing to be provided for social or affordable purposes from this requirement.

Almost 50,000 new homes have been ring-fenced for owner-occupiers since the introduction of the planning guidelines three years ago, officials estimate in an update for the Minister.

This includes 8,500 units across the four Dublin council areas and 2,600 in Kildare, the highest amount in any individual local authority, according to the update to be communicated by Mr O’Brien to Cabinet.

The guidelines came about in the wake of controversy over the proposed sale of most of the homes in a new housing estate, Mullen Park, in Maynooth to one company.

Ultimately, the houses there were not sold to the investor and they were put on the open market.

Separately a 10 per cent stamp duty levy was introduced by the Department of Finance for the cumulative purchase of 10 or more residential houses in a 12-month period.

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Last month Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald argued that the stamp duty levy was failing as she told the Dáil that Central Statistics Office figures show that more than 4,200 homes were bought by funds in 2021 and 2022.

In response Taoiseach Simon Harris said he wanted to see further action on bulk buying but, as the Housing Commission report said, “we do need both private and public investment” to build the housing stock.

He said the Government had already acted by putting in place both tax and planning measures — including the section 28 guidelines for new developments — while also saying: “I want to take further measures.”

Mr Harris said the Government is committed to ensuring that newly built houses are available to first-time buyers and owner-occupiers and it will continue to examine how best to achieve that.

The higher stamp duty rate has applied to less than 1 per cent of properties between May 2021 and the end of 2023, he said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times