Collison brothers discussed housing issues with Department of Finance

Notes of meetings with Paschal Donohoe and Michael D’Arcy released under FoI

Stripe co-founders, Patrick and John Collison. The brothers, and their company, have in the past spoken out about housing problems.  File photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stripe co-founders, Patrick and John Collison. The brothers, and their company, have in the past spoken out about housing problems. File photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Stripe, the online payments company founded by the Collison brothers from Limerick, discussed housing issues with the Department of Finance at two meetings earlier this year.

The company, which employs nearly 200 people at its operations base in Dublin, was among a group of companies that met Minister of State with responsibility for financial services Michael D’Arcy on the fringes of a financial technology conference in Brussels in February 2019.

A note of the meeting, released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, shows they discussed “Dublin infrastructure and housing”. The meeting took place four days after Patrick Collison tweeted that drawbacks to hiring in Dublin included housing costs and an immigration process he described as “bumpy/slow”.

Housing in Dublin is also understood to have been discussed when the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, met Mr Collison and his brother John in San Francisco on a trip to the west coast of the United States.

Brexit

According to a record of that meeting, “discussion covered the potential impact of Brexit, implications for Stripe business, authorisation, the challenge in recruiting and the options in that regard, cost issues including housing in the SF [San Francisco] area”.

The Collisons, and their company, have in the past spoken out about housing issues, especially in San Francisco, which has faced a shortage of affordable accommodation that critics say has polarised society and made the wealth divide driven by high wages in the tech sector more politically problematic.

In 2018, the company donated $1 million to a California housing advocacy organisation. Speaking at the time, Patrick Collison said the company made the donation “because we think broad policy change will make the most meaningful, widespread and long-term difference in the state’s housing crisis, by allowing developers to build more housing – specifically lower-cost, higher-density housing”.

Controversy

The Collisons then sparked controversy by opposing a proposition, known as Prop C, which would tax companies earning more than $50 million a year to fund housing and mental health services, on the grounds they believed it was likely to make the homeless problem worse.

Stripe has been valued at up to $22.5 billion. It raised $100 million from investment firm Tiger Global Management earlier this year.

Documents also show that Mr Donohoe, while on the west coast trip, told Intel that companies needed to make clear where they stood on tax issues. A record of that meeting shows Mr Donohoe gave an outline of developments at EU and OECD level, “and the importance of companies making their views known”, while an Intel executive shared “concerns regarding proposals for minimum effective taxation”.

Separately, a new survey has revealed business leaders in Ireland are more concerned about housing than Brexit. The BDO Optimism Index, which surveyed businesses about their attitudes towards problems facing Ireland, found 81 per cent would like the Government to invest in housing supply as its top priority, followed by 77 per cent who selected education as a top priority. Brexit, which was the top priority in the last quarter of the year, had slipped back to third position.

Optimism levels

Overall optimism levels among Irish businesses have remained static when compared to the same period last year, which BDO said was a knock-on effect of the political uncertainty in the UK, with the research showing three out of five businesses are seeing a negative impact from Brexit.

“Brexit remains a clear challenge for all businesses, large and small, but we are seeing a shift in priorities with a focus on the infrastructural needs of the economy coming to the fore – from housing and education to transport infrastructure,” BDO managing partner Michael Costello said.

“Businesses are concerned about the deficit in our national capital spending and seeing it impact on their operations – a clear message to government as we approach the budget in the autumn that investment in capital projects is necessary to underpin future growth and competitiveness.”