Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said that the 10% stamp duty rate, which is applicable to international investors who buy more than ten residential properties, will be reviewed.
He was replying in the Dáil to Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty, who said that such investors are block-buying new homes at a rate of one transaction a month, but the Government is bluffing that it is addressing the problem.
Mr Doherty said figures supplied to him yesterday by Minister for Finance Michael McGrath show that the rate of block-buying has accelerated rather than decreased over the past three years since the Government introduced a 10% stamp duty – rising from more than 180 homes in 2021 to more than 620 in 2023.
Mr Doherty contended that the Government “feigned” taking action by introducing “half-baked measures”.
Actions, he said, that only paid “lip service” rather than actually tackling the problem.
He said he warned the Government that its measures would not work back in 2021 and said it has proven to be the case in 2024.
Mr Doherty said “the only logical conclusion” was that the Government was “on the side of the vulture funds” whereas his party would take action to eradicate the practice.
In reply, Mr O’Brien said what Sinn Féin neglected to say was that the Government had changed planning law in 2021 to stop the bulk-buying of homes, but the sales quoted by Mr Doherty related to planning permissions which pre-dated that.
He said the issue needed to be put in context was that the there had been 125,000 property transactions over that period and therefore the bulk-buying of homes by institutional investors related to less than 1% of that total.
The minister said the Government backed first-time buyers, whereas Sinn Féin had promised to abolish supports, such as the First Home scheme.
He told the Dáil that commencement figures for the month of December would be 3,167 – a 76% increase on the previous year.
Minister O’Brien said the Government was exceeding its targets with 600 mortgages being draw down a week – the highest rate since 2007.
He added, however, that the 10% stamp duty rate for international investors would be examined.
Speaking later on RTÉ’s Drivetime, Minister O’Brien has said that even though the housing market remains difficult, increasing supply is important and he said thankfully that is happening.
He said: “It still remains difficult for renters, but that’s why we have brought forward things like cost rental, State-backed affordable rental where we have thousands of tenancies now approved, long-term secure rents, minimum 25% below market.”
Mr O’Brien said they are still placing around 160 HAP tenancies every week.
He said it remains a constrained market and that is why they have tried to ensure that they are increasing that supply which is badly needed.
On increasing supply around social housing, the minister said: “If you take the HAP piece where people are renting, we’ve managed to exit about 14,000 households from HAP into permanent social homes.
“That frees up those houses and we are able to do that because we are building social homes at a level that we haven’t seen for over 50 years.”
Emigration to Australia at highest level in 16 years
Social Democrats have accused the Government of leaving young people with no hope of home ownership leaving them with no choice but to move abroad.
Party leader Holly Cairns said that more than 21,000 Irish people went to Australia on working holiday visas last year – the highest number in 16 years.
She said they did not want to leave, but they had no option as they were living in their childhood bedrooms.
“Your approach has failed and you are in a state of denial,” Ms Cairns said.
She referred to the move by an investment fund in a north Dublin housing estate and she said the Government had a flippant attitude towards it and were downplaying it.
She said the 10% stamp duty was no disincentive and she said Sinn Féin’s 17% plan was too weak.
The party’s housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan has proposed 100% stamp duty for such purchases, meaning there would be an effective ban on them.
Mr O’Brien said he rejected that the Government were dealing with housing in a flippant way. He also said 30,000 Irish people returned last year.