Up to 30% of housing schemes to be set aside for first-time buyers under O’Brien plan

So-called cuckoo funds would be restricted from bulk purchasing in specified developments

Cabinet is expected to consider proposals from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to reserve 30 per cent of new new developments for first time buyers. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Cabinet is expected to consider proposals from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to reserve 30 per cent of new new developments for first time buyers. File photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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Future housing developments will have up to 30 per cent of properties earmarked for first-time buyers under plans which will be brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

As part of the memo, so-called cuckoo funds would be restricted from bulk purchasing in specified developments.

Details around the exact kind of developments which will be subject to these rules were still being worked on last night.

The department will propose setting out the new rules around bulk buying in a planning circular.

The department will also propose to introduce amendments to the Affordable Housing Bill 2021 which would earmark a certain percentage of properties for first time buyers in future developments. While the exact figure had not been signed off last night, sources said it will likely be around 30 per cent on top of Part V provisions which stipulate a development must have 10 per cent social and 10 per cent affordable housing.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin said that any changes to planning law “must apply to existing developments if bulk buying of homes intended for owner occupiers is to stop”.

“There are ways to do this without falling foul of the Constitution. It would also be an enormous mistake to limit such restrictions to low density suburban developments,” he said.

The Minister has insisted that it is an absolute priority to “level the playing pitch” for first time home buyers.

Introducing his Affordable Housing Bill, which aims to make housing more affordable to rent or buy for low to medium income households, he confirmed that work is underway to expand Part V of the Planning Act with regard to the percentage of housing in developments that builders are obliged to provide for social and affordable units.

Speaking in the Seanad Mr O’Brien said this will include designating a range of units for first time buyers.

Referring to the issue on institutional funds buying up completed housing estates,the Minister said “work is underway with the Attorney General, right now, to bring these amendments forward to further the playing pitch for first time buyers, which is an absolute clarity from the government”.

He warned however that “to refuse to use the private sector, is to fight with one hand behind our back”.

In apparent criticism of Sinn Féin, Mr O’Brien said “we need to stop letting one party’s perfect be the enemy of everyone else’s good when faced with this crisis”.

He said that “silver bullet fantasies and hysteria politics do a generation locked in a rent trap a grave disservice. I’m committed to using every weapon in our arsenal to fight the battle and turn the tide in our housing crisis.”

And he said the State would play a central role, “the biggest role, the State has played in generations” with a “a major leap forward in our housing policy”.

The most controversial element in the Bill is the shared equity scheme in which the State takes a stake of up to 20 per cent to bridge the affordability gap between an individual’s mortgage limits, and the price of the unit.

Mr O’Brien said it had received “intentionally distracting focus”.

He said the shared equity scheme “will work in conjunction with the Help to Buy scheme to get people into homes this year” and it will help “turn Generation Rent into a generation back and own their own home”.

Mr O’Brien stressed that “safeguards are being dealt in to tailor eligibility to meet individual affordability” and the scheme “will not compel homeowners to borrow more than they can afford”.