Green Party MEP Cuffe ‘disappointed’ with housing reforms

‘I understand several of my parliamentary colleagues in the Oireachtas are of a similar view’

A file image of Green party MEP Ciarán Cuffe who said he had hoped the property reforms would not make a distinction between houses and apartments. Photograph: The Irish Times

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe has said he is "disappointed" with the outcome of Government reforms on housing, and that some of his colleagues in the Oireachtas share his view.

Mr Cuffe, who represents the Dublin constituency in Brussels, said his view is that "a home is a home whether it's an apartment or a house".

Under tax and planning reforms agreed at Cabinet last night, and to be enacted today, bulk purchases of houses and duplexes will be hit with higher stamp duty taxes and disallowed under planning regulations. However, apartments are not.

“If we start differentiating there is a real danger we create an urban/suburban divide,” Mr Cuffe said.

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“It we don’t get it right, there’s a real danger that part of our cities might be dominated by transient residents who have tenancies and aren’t home owners,” he said, adding that “I had hoped any changes would not make a distinction between houses and apartments, and I’m disappointed”.

Mr Cuffe added he was not sure if there was “scope for fine tuning of this at this stage”, and said he is talking to Green colleagues on the issue.

“I understand several of my parliamentary colleagues in the Oireachtas are of a similar view,” he said.

While some tax and planning reforms are due to be enacted today, measures to reserve up to half of new developments for owner occupiers are only due to be introduced as amendments to the Affordable Housing Bill currently working its way through the Oireachtas.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien committed to Cabinet colleagues last night that he would examine whether apartments could be included in this measure, although they were not originally envisaged to be covered under the plan brought to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Neasa Hourigan, the Green Party's finance spokeswoman and Dublin Central TD, said she would vote for the financial resolution introducing the tax changes this evening.

But she said she firmly viewed the reforms as a first step, and that she wanted to end the build-to-rent category of apartment building, which is specifically exempted from the planning reforms brought to Cabinet.

“This isn’t the end of this, it is the one first step. And it can’t be the end of the issue on apartments. People in inner city areas deserve the same quality of life as people in the suburbs.”

“The end of build to rent is the first thing on my list. It’s not suitable, it’s low quality, poor ventilation and provides insufficient space standards,” she said. “We need to tackle investor profits on apartment blocks with some mechanism, it can’t be the end of the discussion because the current mechanism is anti-urban. It will have too much of a negative effect on urban areas to let this lie.”

She said she would vote in favour of the taxation measures as they were "the first movement I've seen from this Government or any Fine Gael minister on disincentivising investors into the State."

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times