Darragh O’Brien: ‘I am on the side of the first-time buyer’

Minister says ‘viable’ solutions to issues in housing sector to go to Cabinet next week

The Government will tackle “head on” the issue of investment funds bulk-buying family homes, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

The Government will tackle “head on” the issue of investment funds bulk-buying family homes, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

The Government will tackle “head on” the issue of investment funds bulk-buying family homes, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Primetime, Mr O’Brien said he does not support the practice and wants to “level the playing pitch” for first-time buyers.

He and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue have been working “intensively” over the last week or so to bring forward ”viable” solutions that do not have other unintended consequences.

Changes are needed in the areas of planning and tax, and he anticipates he will be in a position to bring proposals before Cabinet next week, he said.

“As Minister I am on the side of the first-time buyer… We will be bringing forward measures to level the playing pitch to ensure that bulk sales of homes are curtailed as best as possible,” he said.

Controversy over investment funds bulk-buying residential property erupted in recent weeks after it emerged that hundreds of homes in new housing developments had been bought buy a company intending to place them on the private rental market.

However, the Minister said a “fine balance” must be struck in dealing with so-called cuckoo funds to ensure there continues to be investment in the housing market.

Mr O’Brien said it is essential that investment goes to the right place and “does not compete against first-time buyers”. These funds were intended to increase supply, not take away from it, he said.

Perspective is important, he said, as institutional investors have purchased a “small percentage” of the housing stock.

The Government is taking the housing crisis “extremely seriously” to ensure the generation of renters can become homeowners.

Mr O’Brien said recent legislation on affordable housing is the “most comprehensive ever” and will help people who are paying high rents be able to purchase a home.

Restricting block-purchasing by investment funds is “one aspect of a housing crisis”, and increasing supply is key too, the Minister continued.

There needs to be 30,000 new homes built each year, Mr O’Brien said, adding that he is “convinced” ground lost due to coronavirus restrictions can be made up.