The disgraceful practice of so-called cuckoo funds snapping up family homes in bulk, under the noses of ordinary workers and families, is an issue we have raised with the Taoiseach in the House many times. Indeed, it is perhaps the most abhorrent aspect of our broken housing system. Of course, what is even worse is the practice of these funds snapping up those homes and then leasing them back to local authorities. That is a triple whammy. The funds get away scot-free, the taxpayer pays over the odds for social housing that we do not own, and families and young people are priced out of the market.
The Taoiseach told the Dáil that this practice would cease. In fact, on 5 May, he said that no local authority should be engaged in leasing back homes from these funds. He went on to say that this message should "go out loud and clear from Government". That was a fairly lofty pronouncement. It is now clear that the message from Government is loud and clear and it is, in fact, a direct contradiction of what the Taoiseach said on 5 May. Tomorrow night, it is the intention of the Minister for Finance to introduce an amendment that will afford these funds another tax break to incentivise them to buy up family homes and lease them back to councils. On the one hand, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that councils should not engage in long-term leases with institutional investors, but the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, is now actively encouraging it. This is happening on the Taoiseach's watch. One really could not make this stuff up.
The result of all of this, to be clear, is that aspiring home buyers will continue to be priced out of the market by institutional investors who avail of sweetheart tax breaks gifted to them by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and, lest we forget, by the Labour Party in its time. If the Taoiseach really means what he said in May, he will insist that the Minister's amendment to the Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 is scrapped. He will not do that, however, because he is not serious about this and he never has been. He is content to allow these funds to rip off our citizens. He has done nothing to rein this shower in and their sweetheart tax arrangements remain in situ. Indeed, far from sorting this mess out, the Taoiseach is, in fact, adding to it at a time when families and young people cannot put a secure roof over their heads.
It is a free-for-all when it comes to apartments. In 2019 alone, 95% of apartments built were acquired by these institutions at the expense of first-time buyers. Last year, six out of every seven homes built in the city of Dublin were apartments and these funds have carte blanche to snap up all of them in bulk. The Government has surrendered our city to these vulture funds, to the detriment of ordinary workers and families. Now it is pulling another stroke and attempting another fast one by actively encouraging these funds to acquire houses and rip off the Irish taxpayer by exempting the funds from any tax hike. Is it not time now to rip up this plan and start all over again? Is it not time for the Taoiseach to be true to his word? Is it not time to have effective remedies and stop these funds from snapping up apartments and houses under the noses of families and working citizens?