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Will new reforms help the current crisis?

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The package of housing reforms announced last night will probably prove to be narrowly effective, but the Government’s fundamental problems on housing remain. Will the new reforms help, or do they risk a backlash, division in Government, and ushering in a range of new political risks for the coalition?

Just what have they decided, and what does it all mean?

So, bulk buying is off the cards now, right?
Yes and no. A certain type of bulk buying, in a certain area, is (or will be shortly). But in other areas, and among certain housing types, it’s still allowed.

First of all, what’s banned now?
Almost immediately, two changes will come into effect. Tonight, the Dáil will vote to impose a higher stamp duty of ten per cent on purchases of ten or more houses or duplexes. Apartments are exempt (more on that later).

These stamp reforms are the only taxation element brought to the table by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Today, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will send a circular to local authorities mandating that houses and duplexes in new developments must be made available for sale by individual, non-commercial buyers. Again, there are exemptions for social and affordable reasons, and the condition will lapse for any units not sold in two years. It’s understood Ministers were told yesterday that O’Brien is considering, on the advice of the Attorney General, whether additional legislation is needed to “bolster” this guidance – that could be one to watch.

That’s it for now?
There’s a second stage to the planning reforms. The Government will introduce amendments to the Affordable Housing Bill, currently working its way through the Oireachtas, over the summer which will mandate local authorities to make a certain percentage of new builds available for purchase by “owner-occupiers”. Originally intended this would apply to first time buyers only, and it’s not clear why this change was introduced at the last minute.

It was originally intended that this would only apply to houses and duplexes, but after Green Ministers raised concerns at cabinet about the exclusion of apartments from the measures, O’Brien has committed to examining whether this could be extended to include apartments.

Will the Government housing plan help you?

So, will it work?
It depends what you mean by “work”. From the Government’s point of view, these policies were designed to tackle a very specific problem – the purchase of houses which had been designed for and marketed to owner-occupiers by investment funds. Gazumping, effectively, of punters by funds. And they’ll probably curtail that, but not for a while, as the rules only apply to new planning permissions.

However, that’s only half the story.

What’s the other half?
The current debate over funds isn’t really about one transaction, or one particular type of deal. It has reignited and animated the entire political debate about housing, which had lain dormant (to a degree) during the height of the Covid crisis.

The political risk associated with failures in housing policy has crystallised rapidly. The themes of insiders and outsiders, winners and losers, which dominated the last election cycle have returned, and been given a new lease of life, in the form of “funds versus people”. What’s clear from a close reading of the Government decision is that funds are going nowhere. While Government actions might target some aspects of how they work, they’re centrally involved in housing policy – especially for apartments and the private rental sector, a rapidly growing market segment.

Why is that?
Apartments are particularly attractive to investment funds, and Ministers were told yesterday that their construction is especially reliant on financing from these funds. “In order for apartment complexes to be built it is necessary in virtually all cases for an institutional investor to commit through a binding contract to purchase all or part of an apartment complex on completion,” a memo for cabinet reads. Ministers were told institutional investors will only fund this development if they can easily sell apartments on, which could be hurt by an extra stamp charge.

Builders say apartment construction is basically non-viable without funds involved.

Ministers were also told that there is a ministerial policy objective to “ensure that own-door housing in lower density housing estates are not bulk-purchased for rental purposes by commercial institutional investors in a manner that causes the displacement of individual household purchasers”.

So these two dynamics – wanting to preserve funding for apartment blocks, and encourage home ownership in less dense areas, were core to Government thinking.

What are the politics of all this?
The reforms tackle a specific problem, but critics argue they do nothing to address more endemic problems around affordability, and risk damaging urban sustainability by incentivising renting in city centres and home ownership on the edge of town. They also preserve the role for investment funds in the wider market.

As we’ve seen, that’s basically a government goal, but it means there will be a steady supply of examples where funds purchase homes, which will ram home for some people the idea that the Government is prioritising financial interests over homes for people. There is a huge market for rental investment, as shown by a story in our property pages today about a bidding war for a €1 billion, 2,000 unit private rented sector “platform”.

These reforms, while they may be narrowly successful when viewed on their own terms, leave the Government open to the charge of a missed opportunity. The visible relief of big property companies, expressed in rising stock market prices this morning, won’t help this impression.

The Government will call foul, and argue (with some justification) that things aren’t that simple, pointing to their affordable housing and land development agency bills as evidence they want to solve more systemic problems. But the political risk is in the here and now.

Within the coalition, the apartment exemptions are causing particular problems among the Greens. Sources in the party say that there was an agreed position among some members of the parliamentary party, that densities or housing types – such as apartments – could not be excluded from the reforms. It seems these concerns were raised by ministers, but for whatever reason, the Greens lost the argument around the cabinet table. However, as comments from MEP Ciarán Cuffe this morning show, there is a sizable rump of dissatisfaction within the party over how things have played out. Mr Cuffe said he is “disappointed” with the reforms, and that he understands “several of my parliamentary colleagues in the Oireachtas are of a similar view”.

It’s not confined to the Greens, either. James Geoghegan, the Fine Gael candidate in Dublin Bay South, put down a motion supported by party colleagues last week arguing the concentration of build-to-let is “distorting competition, inflating rents and locking a generation away from home ownership”. He said on Wednesday he supports the Government policy, but that he would like to see a “rebalancing” to include apartments to some extent in rules curtailing bulk purchase. He said the market needs to be “rebalanced… either through planning or legislation, because the only way a citizen can be protected against that amount of finance is to legislate for it”.

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Evo Industrial acquires London warehouse (GB)

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Bradda Capital has sold a prime last-mile logistics site in southeast London to Evo Industrial for over €9.3m (£8m). The 3.4-acre site, One Church Manorway, is located in an established industrial area in Erith and has significant development potential. In September 2020, Bradda obtained planning consent to demolish the current 37,662ft² warehouse and to construct a new 60,687ft² facility with a BREEAM sustainability rating of “Very Good”.

 

David Phillips, managing director of Bradda Capital, said: “We are delighted with the level of bidding interest in the site, which reflected the strength of the logistics real estate market. It is an investment that we bought 10 years ago for income with an eye on the growing demand for warehousing in the London area. With leases at expiry, we realised the potential for adding significant value by securing planning consent for a much larger facility of more than three times the volume”.

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Inside six of the most unusual homes for sale on Rightmove

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A £10million mansion with its own vineyard that produces 100,000 bottles of wine a year and a former nuclear bunker costing £50,000 feature in the most unusual homes picked by property website Rightmove.

All six of the most unique homes for sale on the property website made the list for their standout features.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘It’s such a joy to be able to share these wonderfully unusual properties with the rest of the nation. 

‘From a former nuclear bunker on the south coast to an apartment with a cinema in an underground cave, each one is totally out of the ordinary.’

Here are the six most unusual properties for sale on Rightmove…

1. Former nuclear bunker, Folkestone, £50,000 

Included in the list of most unusual properties on Rightmove is this former Royal Observer Corps nuclear bunker

Included in the list of most unusual properties on Rightmove is this former Royal Observer Corps nuclear bunker

The bunker has a monitoring post with rooms several metres underground, and was built by the Ministry of Defence in 1971

The bunker has a monitoring post with rooms several metres underground, and was built by the Ministry of Defence in 1971

Could you live here? The property in Folkestone has main road access, while the bunker remains in good structural condition

Could you live here? The property in Folkestone has main road access, while the bunker remains in good structural condition

A robust property: Rightmove has described the bunker as 'one of the most impenetrable properties' on its website

A robust property: Rightmove has described the bunker as ‘one of the most impenetrable properties’ on its website

The property is in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Kent coastline, with views across the sea towards France

The property is in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Kent coastline, with views across the sea towards France

It’s one of the most impenetrable properties on Rightmove – and this former Royal Observer Corps nuclear bunker in Folkestone is available to buy.

It has a guide price of £50,000, but it is being sold auction via Miles & Barr estate agents, with properties at auction often being sold for more than the initial asking figure.

The bunker includes a monitoring post with rooms several metres underground, and it was built by the Ministry of Defence in 1971.

It is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, opposite the North Downs Way walking path, with views from the site across the sea towards France.

2. Two-bed flat in Nottingham, £325,000 

From outside, there is no indication of the unusual features contained within this two-bedroom flat in Nottingham

From outside, there is no indication of the unusual features contained within this two-bedroom flat in Nottingham

Steps lead down to the lower ground floor flat, which is currently on the market for £325,000 estate agents Liberty Gate

Steps lead down to the unusual lower ground floor flat, which is on the market for £325,000 estate agents Liberty Gate

Unique entertainment space: The flat includes its own underground cave that doubles up as a private home cinema

Unique entertainment space: The flat includes its own underground cave that doubles up as a private home cinema

The flat is part of the St Marys Gate House development, which was originally built as the French Consulate

The flat is part of the St Marys Gate House development, which was originally built as the French Consulate

The cave cinema boasts reclining leather armchairs, a ventilation and heat recovery system and a sizeable wine chiller

The cave cinema boasts reclining leather armchairs, a ventilation and heat recovery system and a sizeable wine chiller

Mixing the old with the new: The flat has a modern kitchen with some clever lighting and exposed brickwork

Mixing the old with the new: The flat has a modern kitchen with some clever lighting and exposed brickwork

This two-bedroom flat includes its own underground cave that doubles up as a private home cinema.

The cave cinema boasts reclining leather armchairs, a ventilation and heat recovery system and a sizeable wine chiller.

The property is being sold via estate agents Liberty Gate, with a guide price of between £325,000 to £335,000.

3. Four-bed house, St Leonards-on-sea, £1.25m 

The perfect pad to party at home? This colourful property in East Sussex has an interesting carnival theme

The perfect pad to party at home? This colourful property in East Sussex has an interesting carnival theme

The St Leonards-on-sea house is being sold via M&W Sales and Lettings, with an impressive asking price of £1.25million

The St Leonards-on-sea house is being sold via M&W Sales and Lettings, with an impressive asking price of £1.25million

The property is called The Bath House: The detached house has four bedrooms, and was once a Victorian Turkish bathhouse

The property is called The Bath House: The detached house has four bedrooms, and was once a Victorian Turkish bathhouse

The house has a bright interior: There are chandeliers hanging from wooden beams and bright red velvet corner sofas

The house has a bright interior: There are chandeliers hanging from wooden beams and bright red velvet corner sofas

Fancy a game? The main living area includes its own bowling alley with a large clown face light display hanging above it

Fancy a game? The main living area includes its own bowling alley with a large clown face light display hanging above it

This colourful property in East Sussex has a carnival theme and includes its own bowling alley in the main living area.

There are chandeliers hanging from wooden beams, bright red velvet corner sofas and ‘dodgem’ artwork on the walls.

The detached house has four bedrooms, and was once a Victorian Turkish bathhouse – hence its name today is The Bath House. It is being sold via M&W Sales and Lettings, and has an asking price of £1.25million.

4. Three-bed house, London, £6.5m 

The London property was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the same architect who designed actor Ewan McGregor's home

The London property was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the same architect who designed actor Ewan McGregor’s home

Not your typical home in the capital: The property in Kings Cross has three bedrooms with unusual features

Not your typical home in the capital: The property in Kings Cross has three bedrooms with unusual features

Making a splash: The main bedroom suite of this London home comes with an enclosed narrow swimming pool

Making a splash: The main bedroom suite of this London home comes with an enclosed narrow swimming pool

Not a single white tile in sight: The swimming pool area has grey tiles with a black painted ceiling and walls

Not a single white tile in sight: The swimming pool area has grey tiles with a black painted ceiling and walls

The Kings Cross property is on the market for £6.5 million and is being sold via estate agents Sotheby's International

The Kings Cross property is on the market for £6.5 million and is being sold via estate agents Sotheby’s International

The main bedroom suite of this house in the heart of London comes with an enclosed swimming pool and private steam room.

The three-bedroom property was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the same architect who designed actor Ewan McGregor’s home.

The Kings Cross property is on the market for £6.5 million and is being sold via estate agents Sotheby’s International.

5. Six-bed mansion with a vineyard, Wales, £10m 

As well as its own vineyard, this sprawling six-bedroom mansion has an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court

As well as its own vineyard, this sprawling six-bedroom mansion has an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court

Plenty of open space: Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, in Wales, boasts an enormous 137 acres of land

Plenty of open space: Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, in Wales, boasts an enormous 137 acres of land

The vineyard set-up is being sold as part of the property and it produces  an impressive 100,000 bottles of wine a year

The vineyard set-up is being sold as part of the property and it produces  an impressive 100,000 bottles of wine a year

A chance to enjoy the Welsh countryside: The stunning property is being sold for £10million via Savills estate agents

A chance to enjoy the Welsh countryside: The stunning property is being sold for £10million via Savills estate agents

Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, includes 29.5 acres of vines and supplies wine to some of the world's top restaurants

Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, includes 29.5 acres of vines and supplies wine to some of the world’s top restaurants

The mansion includes a swimming pool surrounding by a patio with plenty of seating areas to entertain at home

The mansion includes a swimming pool surrounding by a patio with plenty of seating areas to entertain at home

Fancy owning your own vineyard? This property in Wales could fit the bill as it produces 100,000 bottles of wine a year.

Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, is tucked away in the Welsh Borders and boasts an enormous 137 acres of land – including 29.5 acres of vines – and supplies some of the world’s top restaurants, including to French chef Raymond Blanc.

Ancre Hill has been recognised in some of the top international wine competitions in the world and won the Bollicine del Mondo in 2012 when its 2008 Sparkling Wine was voted the best White Sparkling Wine in the world. 

At the heart of the estate is a sprawling six-bedroom mansion, which has an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court. The property is being sold for £10million via Savills estate agents.

6. Houseboat, London, £2m 

This luxurious houseboat once belonged to the French star Edith Piaf who used it on tours around France and Europe

This luxurious houseboat once belonged to the French star Edith Piaf who used it on tours around France and Europe

A quick translation of the boat's name: The houseboat is called Flamant Rose, the French for Pink Flamingo

A quick translation of the boat’s name: The houseboat is called Flamant Rose, the French for Pink Flamingo

A piece of history: The boat has been based at a mooring at St Katherine's Dock marina in London since the late 1990s

A piece of history: The boat has been based at a mooring at St Katherine’s Dock marina in London since the late 1990s

The historic charm of the yacht is felt throughout, with plenty of unique features on show, such as this ship's wheel

The historic charm of the yacht is felt throughout, with plenty of unique features on show, such as this ship’s wheel

This luxurious houseboat, named Flamant Rose – French for Pink Flamingo – once belonged to the French star Edith Piaf, who used it on tours around France and Europe.

The boat has been based at a mooring at St Katherine’s Dock marina in London since the late 1990s, and it is now available to buy for £2million via estate agents Sotheby’s International.

Keen to own your own houseboat? It is on the market for £2million via estate agents Sotheby's International

Keen to own your own houseboat? It is on the market for £2million via estate agents Sotheby’s International

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Search continues for Dublin man missing in US Rocky Mountains

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US park rangers are searching for a 27-year-old Dubliner missing in Grand Teton National Park in the state of Wyoming after his car was found at the start of a hiking trail.

Cian McLaughlin, who studied at Dublin Institute of Technology and works as a snowboard instructor at Jackson Hole in the Rocky Mountains, has not been seen for almost a week.

The Dublin man was reported missing on Sunday morning by Teton County Sheriff’s Office. His car was later found at the start of a hiking trail in the 310,000-acre park.

The National Park Service, the US government agency leading the search for Mr McLaughlin, said he was last seen in the town of Jackson last Tuesday afternoon.

He failed to report for work in Jackson on Thursday and the local sheriff’s office received a missing-person report late on Saturday night.

Grand Teton National Park was contacted early on Sunday when the sheriff’s office received information indicating that Mr McLaughlin may be hiking in the park. A spokeswoman for the National Park Service (NPS) said that park teams with search dogs were out searching the park for the missing man.

She said that Mr McLaughlin is believed to have headed out for a “day hike” without a backpack with him but that “no one knows where he intended to go or where he did go”.

His car was located at Lupine Meadows Trailhead on Sunday morning at an elevation of 6,732ft. The NPS spokeswoman said that there is still snow in the park at about 8,000ft.

Ground-search operations

“Aerial reconnaissance and ground-search operations were conducted in high probability areas in the park on Sunday, June 13th, in search of McLaughlin with no evidence or leads about his whereabouts. Search operations will continue early Monday morning, June 14th,” said the NPS.

In a public appeal, the NPS called on anyone travelling in “backcountry” inside the park since last Tuesday to come forward if they have any information about Mr McLaughlin.

The Dubliner’s Facebook page says he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort last December and that he previously lived in the French ski resort of Chamonix.

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