The Green Party has long campaigned for affordable homes. It promised to invest in large-scale affordable housing developments and reuse vacant stock for affordable homes, thereby revitalising our urban centres and tackling climate change. The Green Party continually promotes compact growth and rightly advocates for the 15-minute city. Yet, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and his colleagues are part of a Government that is actively undermining these policies. That Government is allowing big institutional investors to snap up thousands of family homes and denying would-be buyers from realising their dream of owning homes. It is also allowing these institutional investors to charge sky-high rents, which is squeezing more and more working people out of our city centres.
The planning and tax measures announced last week will do nothing to solve these problems. In fact, the exclusion of apartments from either measure will make matters worse. Are apartments not homes? Do we not want people to rent and buy affordable apartments in our city centres? On Thursday last, the Minister told the Dáil: "The market is not working ... There has to be a radical change and we will help steer that change from within government." Only days later, however, we learned that not only is it allowing big institutional investors buy up family homes, the Government is actually funding them to do this. Home Building Finance Ireland was set up by Government to fund medium-sized builders to build and deliver mid-priced homes. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, is the main shareholder and yet over the past 12 months - with the full knowledge of his Department - he has given €264 million of taxpayers' money to big developers to build almost 1,000 homes. Home Building Finance Ireland and the Department of Finance knew that all of these homes would be sold to big institutional investors which would charge extortionate rents.
Last week, the Tánaiste told the Dáil there may have been only one case or a handful of cases where Home Building Finance Ireland invested in build-to-let investments. Now, of course, we know this is not true. In the past year, 30 Home Building Finance Ireland loans, totalling more than 56% of the homes it is financing to be built, have gone to big institutional investors. What in God's name would the Minister do to allow taxpayers' money to be used to fund wealthy developers build and sell homes that will then be rented out? Why is this money not being used to build homes and apartments for working people to rent and buy at genuinely affordable prices, as the Minister promised in his election manifesto? Will the Minister give a commitment that the Government will immediately cease using taxpayers' money in this way and instead invest the money in the large-scale delivery of affordable homes for working people? The current level of investment by the Government in affordable purchase and affordable cost rental homes is derisory. This is not just the view of the Opposition, it is the view of every independent agency. When will the Government stop allowing taxpayers' money to be used to invest in homes for funds and when will it start to invest in homes for working people?