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Mary Lou McDonald rejects idea Sinn Féin housing policy prompting landlords to exit market – The Irish Times


The State needs to be ready to intervene and buy up properties as the number of private landlords seeking to exit the market increases in the coming years, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Ms McDonald said many accidental landlords were opting to sell their properties, but she rejected suggestions they were doing so because they feared a Sinn Féin-led government would impose further restrictions on rent rises while giving greater rights to tenants.

She said that many private landlords had opted to leave the market and put their houses up for sale because they were finally emerging from negative equity. With property prices high, they can get a good price and invest the proceeds in their pensions.

“It’s happened in many instances because people who were in negative equity are no longer in negative equity, people who invested in a property for their pension are now coming to an age where they need to realise the value of the asset because property prices are now so high.

“That’s what’s driving the exit from the market and the important thing now is that the State is in a position to intervene and acquire those properties so that when they are being sold, families with young children, older people, single people, do not end up losing the roof over their head.

“We know this is happening, we’ve seen all the research – the question is how is it that the Government has been so flat-footed, so slow, so careless, so thoughtless about people that they have not been in a state of preparedness to intervene in the way that they must.”

Asked about comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that first-time buyers should be wary of a Sinn Féin government as it could affect and distort the property market with its policies, Ms McDonald said it was clear to her that Fine Gael policies were failing first-time buyers and others.

“I would simply tell Leo Varadkar that first-time buyers and those trying to rent are very fearful of the continuance of a Fine Gael-led government because we have all seen the consequences of that in terms of high property prices and rents that are extortionate right across the country.

“And we have seen the consequences of it in homeless figures that are shameful in a country that is an affluent country and a government that lifts an eviction ban knowing that thousands of families [will be affected] and they don’t even bat an eyelid,” she said.

Speaking in Anglesborough, Co Limerick, at a commemoration to the mark the centenary of the death of Anti-Treaty IRA leader Liam Lynch in the Civil War, Ms McDonald played down reports that consultants PwC had advised its clients to dispose of assets before Sinn Féin gets into government.

The Business Post reported that a draft PwC report has warned clients to speed up the sale of assets and investments in their pension pots in order to protect their wealth in advance of Sinn Féin coming to power, with the party riding high in opinion polls.

The report, dated from March and marked “draft and for discussion”, analysed the impact of the party’s proposals to increase income tax on high earners and gains on asset disposals by wealthy individuals, as well as its plan to reduce tax relief on large pensions.

But Ms McDonald moved to assuage any fears that businesspeople or high earners might have, saying that Sinn Féin has ongoing engagement with all sectors of Irish society, including the business community, who have identified housing as the biggest challenge facing them as they seek to grow.

“We have ongoing engagement with all sections of Irish society including the business community – and by that, I mean small businesses, small- and medium-sized enterprises and the large corporate world – and what they have been consistently telling me is their biggest challenge now is housing.

“Their biggest challenge now is to attract talent, keep talent and ensure that workers can actually put a roof over their heads. That is the single biggest challenge and I think we can all accept that the current Government has failed to rise to that challenge.”

Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin was absolutely determined to turn that around because they knew that, until the question surrounding housing was properly addressed, there was little hope of growing the economy in a way that would benefit everyone.

“We are in the business of building a prosperous economy driven by good jobs, decent wages and the opportunity for enterprise and business to thrive… but we also know that until the questions around housing in particular are properly met, we are going to have a society in deep difficulty.

“That’s where Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and the Green Party have led us and it will be the job of a Sinn Féin government, if we get the opportunity to govern, to turn this around and business has been telling me this consistently for the last number of years… Their number-one ask of us is to sort out housing.”

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