Sinn Féin has been raising with Government the need to tackle the growing power of so-called cuckoo funds for years. We proposed measures to end the sweetheart tax deals that these funds have been gifted by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but, time and again, Government has voted against these proposals.
Last week, the Taoiseach came to the Dáil and expressed his shock that funds are snapping up family homes in bulk. He said that this was a new development and it was not Government policy. Of course, none of that is true because it is Government policy to attract these investment funds which it does by giving them cushy tax arrangements, which see them pay virtually no tax at all. Last weekend we learned that it is also Government policy to invest in these funds. Money that should have be used for affordable and social housing was being used to push ordinary buyers out of the market, to push up house prices and rents. Far from being shocked, the truth is the Taoiseach knew what was happening and his claim that it is not Government policy to support these funds is absolutely bogus.
Ordinary working people will struggle every day to save for a deposit, they will pay extortionate rents, they will find themselves locked out of home ownership, and, all the while, these investors snap up homes from under their noses and their Government is boosting these funds with their taxes. You could not make it up.
The Government knows it is faced with enormous public anger in the face of a housing emergency. Yet the measures we have heard reported in the media seem to be a case of far too little, far too late. If the Government does not set the stamp duty at a high enough rate, it will not stop these funds buying up homes ahead of first-time buyers and others. For example, the Tories in Britain set the rate at 15%. They discovered even that rate was too low and they have had to raise it again.
If the Government's proposals exclude apartments, we will also have a big problem there because apartments are family homes and cannot be excluded. The reality is that half of all homes built in County Dublin last year would be exempted under the proposals speculated on in the media. Six out of seven homes in the city would be exempted.
The Government cannot wave the flag of surrender and abandon whole communities to investment funds not just in Dublin city but in Poolbeg, Cherrywood, Clonburris, Cork city and beyond because this would consign an entire generation to paying extortionate rip-off rents long into the future, unable to buy their own homes as these funds increase their profits.
Stamp duty needs to be increased. The Government needs to understand that these funds will spread the cost of this over their long-term investments. The Government, therefore, also needs to tax their profits. It must shut down all the sweetheart tax arrangements enjoyed by these investment funds. These deals, designed by Fine Gael and continued by this Government, need to be brought to an end. That is the only way we can ensure that this generation of workers and families will stand any chance of securing an affordable home. Will the Taoiseach outline for the Dáil and, more importantly, for those caught up in this housing nightmare what measurements his Government will now bring forward to stop these funds?