The Taoiseach has defended the mix of investment in the housing market, saying there had been an “overly simplistic” narrative about the role of international investors.
Speaking to reporters before the Christmas break, Micheál Martin said the “bulk, overwhelming majority of money and funding is State funding going into housing”.
However, private investment is “important in terms of housing overall,” he said. “We need to be careful as a country ... that we’re not ... saying we don’t want any international investment at all”.
Such investment was “not the key, core part of our housing programme, nor should it be presented as such.”
“It is a minority part of the overall investment we put into our social housing, and into affordable housing, but we are a country that has always been open to private sector investment. There will be a need for private sector investment in house building, apart from the historic State investment.”
Mr Martin said the State investment in housing provision would be about €4 billion per year over the next five years under the Government's Housing for All plan. "I think there has been an overly simplistic narrative around the housing story. One would imagine that the only thing that was going on was leasing or institutional investment," he said.
The Coalition was forced to curtail the ability of housing investment funds to "bulk-buy" homes earlier this year after controversy erupted when one investor purchased most of a 170-home estate at Mullen Park in Maynooth, Co Kildare. Meanwhile, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien sought to restrict the development of co-living projects.
However, both moves were criticised by the Opposition for falling short and allowing the continued investment in certain categories of housing – such as apartments – or the ongoing development of co-living projects already in the planning pipeline.
Mr Martin said the “primary driver” of social housing investment was the State, and that he was “glad to see” the steps taken to “stop the bulk-buying of houses and housing estates by institutional investment funds”. The Government’s main priority, he said, was to “to concentrate the State investment in a way that more people can afford houses, and then those who are not in a position to buy a house will be able to get a social house or cost rental”.
Asked about progress made in a review of Irish planning legislation, overseen by the office of the Attorney General, he said the aim was similar to a consolidation of company law some years ago, but the aim was that it would be completed in about 12 months. He said it would aid the implementation of the €165 billion National Development Plan.