The Government had two options last night - to propose a meaningful plan to stop cuckoo funds snapping up family homes and pushing ordinary home buyers out of the market or to tinker around the edges with measures that would have no real impact on the funds and not fix the problem faced by people desperately seeking to put an affordable roof over their heads. The Government made its choice, and we again see that wealthy investment funds and big developers always come out on top with Fianna Fáil.
People had low expectations of what the Government would do last night, given that it has supported these funds for years, but it has defied even those low expectations. It has done the bare minimum. The proposal to pitch stamp duty at 10% is too low. These wealthy investment funds will easily absorb that additional cost across their long-term investments. Stamp duty is the only tax measure the Government has touched. Some of these funds are the largest residential landlords in the State, yet they do not pay a cent on their rental incomes. One fund, IRES, paid zero in tax on the €75 million that it generated in rents last year, yet the Government will still allow such funds to get away with that while they charge our people extortionate, eye-watering rents. It is little wonder that IRES's share price rose by 2.6% overnight following the Government's announcement.
The Government has excluded homes that are not houses. Apartments have been left out. That is half of all homes built in Dublin last year and six out of seven homes in the city overall. It is open season on those. The Government has essentially waved the white flag of surrender and abandoned people in the cities and suburbs to the extortionate rents of these investor funds, not just here in Dublin, but in other places such as the Taoiseach's city of Cork. Even where the Government has introduced so-called controls, they have no retrospective effect, meaning they will not make a blind bit of difference to the 80,000 planning permissions already under way. That is another 80,000 houses that home buyers should have been able to make a pitch for, but they will now lose out to the funds. The cuckoo funds breathed a sigh of relief last night.
What the Government has proposed is a recipe for failure. The Taoiseach knows that these measures will not work because they are designed not to work. There is an acid test for the Government's proposal. First, will it reduce the rip-off rents that people pay? The answer is "No". Second, will it reduce house prices? The answer is "No". Third, will it stop investment cuckoo funds buying up family homes? The answer is "No". People expected their Government to step in and stop these funds in their tracks. Instead, what they got was a cop out. The Government may try to play people who are struggling to buy a home for fools, but they will not be taken in by this.
Last night, the Government had the opportunity to do the right thing, but it wasted that opportunity. I am asking it to do the right thing today. Do what will work, end all of the tax advantages for these funds, include apartments in these measures, and ensure that measures can be applied retrospectively to stop cuckoos snapping up the 80,000 homes that should and must go to ordinary home buyers.