Systemic issues in home ownership must be addressed, says Varadkar

Fianna Fáil housing minister to address Fine Gael meeting over investor funds controversy

Mr Varadkar told colleagues it was never intended to allow investments funds to purchase housing estates. File photograph: David Dear/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Mr Varadkar told colleagues it was never intended to allow investments funds to purchase housing estates. File photograph: David Dear/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

 

Fianna Fáil Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will attend a Fine Gael parliamentary party later this month to discuss the growing controversy over investor funds buying entire housing estates for the rental market as well as his affordable housing legislation.

It will be first for a Fianna Fáil TD to attend the weekly meeting of TDs and Senators of Fine Gael, the party which had been its biggest rival over many decades, until the formation of the current Coalition.

Leo Varadkar told a meeting of Fine Gael on Wednesday evening that systemic problems regarding home ownership have to be addressed. He said real differences are required in policy to ensure people have their own homes. He indicated that the current policies were not making sufficient impact and that younger people remained priced out of the market.

The meeting heard banks worldwide are printing money which led to financial investments in physical assets in Ireland but that these have consequences for those living here.

Mr Varadkar told colleagues it was never intended to allow investments funds to purchase housing estates. He said the Government was looking at it to ensure it did not become an “enduring phenomenon”.

Several TDs at the meeting were vocal in their criticism of entire housing estates being bought by investment funds and then being rented out. The Kerry TD Brendan Griffin called for the Real Estate Investor Trust legislation introduced by Fine Gael finance minister Michael Noonan to be revoked. It allows trusts set up for that purpose to avoid corporation tax, capital gains tax, as well as tax on rent rolls in some cases.

The Laois TD Charlie Flanagan asked Mr Varadkar to consider setting up an internal party committee on housing. There was also criticism of Mr O’Brien’s handling of the affordable homes legislation.

Covid-19 restrictions

Mr Varadkar has said he was hopeful that indoor dining could return in July with six to a table, contact details taken and allowances made for the size of venues.

Mr Varadkar told the meeting that a decision on any potential return to indoor dining in July would not be made until next month.

On vaccines, Mr Varadkar said the country was comfortably breaking 200,000 doses administered each week and a third of the adult population have received at least one dose now.

He also told the meeting that the reduced VAT rate of 9 per cent for hospitality could be sustained until the end of the year.