Large percentage of new-builds may be reserved for first-time buyers under new plan

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is set to bring the plans to Cabinet on Tuesday

 Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is set to propose in a new plan that density be used as a key determinant for allowing the bulk purchase of units in estates or other housing developments. Photograph: Damien Eagers / The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is set to propose in a new plan that density be used as a key determinant for allowing the bulk purchase of units in estates or other housing developments. Photograph: Damien Eagers / The Irish Times

 

The Government will move to put aside significant percentages of new-build homes for first-time buyers, under plans to be considered at Cabinet this week.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is set to bring the plans to Cabinet on Tuesday.

The current basis of plan is to introduce an amendment to the Affordable Housing Bill, currently making its way through the Oireachtas.

This is seen as the fastest way to introduce a change, as that legislation is expected to pass before the Dáil summer recess.

However, it may also be introduced by amending the Planning and Development Act, or by the introduction of standalone legislation if judged necessary by the Attorney General, sources said.

Reports in Sunday newspapers suggested the percentage put aside could be as high as half the units in some new developments, although sources suggested no final decision had been made on the split.

When combined with percentages put aside for social and affordable housing, new rules carving out homes for first-time buyers would see significantly more than half the units in some new developments earmarked for purchase or use by specific cohorts of buyers.

“We will do everything we can and use all levers of the State to support home ownership,” Government chief whip Jack Chambers told RTÉ’s Week in Politics programme on Sunday.

“[The Government parties] have engineered the housing market to be dysfunctional,” Sinn Féin’s enterprise spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly told the programme, saying an ambitious house building programme was needed as “generations” of people were being locked out of home ownership.

Mr O’Brien is also set to propose to Cabinet that density be used as a key determinant for allowing the bulk purchase of units in estates or other housing developments.

He is planning to issue a circular to local authorities which would allow for bulk purchases in higher density areas, such as city centre cores.

This would encourage ongoing investment into apartment building, while in effect barring the bulk purchase of units in suburban housing estates.

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance has defended investments made by the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) in a company which purchased significant numbers of homes in Co Kildare.

The ISIF put €60 million into a firm called Urbeo in 2018, which, according to a report in the Business Post went on to purchase more than 200 units in two housing estates in Maynooth.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the investment in Urbeo, and other housing investments by ISIF “are designed to increase the supply of housing by acting as a catalyst for both domestic and international investment in delivering more homes in Ireland”.

“All ISIF investment - whether in the owner occupier, private rental or social rental sectors - is exclusively used for the construction of new homes, as opposed to the purchase of existing housing stock.”

It is understood that the Department’s position is that the funds referenced forward funded new housing supply which otherwise would not have been built, unlike the previous story in Maynooth, where a fund competed against individual house buyers.