Sinn Féin Donegal TD Pearse Doherty has said it is beyond belief that the State’s investment fund set up in December 2014- the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund- has yet to find what it calls any “investable projects or initiatives” for social housing.
He was speaking out following a response from acting finance minister Michael Noonan.
Deputy Doherty said: “When the ISIF was set up out of the NPRF, we were promised that it would be a major tool for investment in our country.
“However as Sinn Fein argued at the time, the restrictions on the type of investments it could be make were too tight to allow for State investment in critical areas of social need such as social housing. As confirmed today by Minister Noonan, not one cent of the €6.8bn starting fund has been used to provide social housing.
“Furthermore, his reply shows no plan in place for any investment in social housing. The Fund was established nearly 18 months ago in December 2014. That is almost a year and a half in which a State Investment Fund in a country with a dire social housing need has neither spent nor set out any plans to spend a cent on building social housing.
“The fund has facilitated private developers to build some private homes and speculators such as a Wilbur Ross fund have benefitted from its funding yet when asked specifically about social housing the Minister admitted that no ‘investable projects’ had been found.
“Today as the Dáil went through another charade, 140,000 people are awaiting social housing. The ISIF is the people’s money yet it seems its priority is backing up private money for private housing at a time of huge social need. Funnelling the State’s investment fund into giving speculators a helping hand cannot be justified while 140,000 people are told the rules say ‘No’.”
Dail Question below:
QUESTION NO: 168
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan)
by Deputy Pearse Doherty
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 06/04/2016
To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to direct the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to invest in social and public housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy will be aware, the challenges that we are facing in different sectors of the housing market, including social housing, are both multi-faceted and inextricably bound up with one another. Within that context, policy initiatives in the area of housing must seek to address all of the various sectors of the market, including the private owner occupier market, the rental market and social housing provision.
In line with its statutory mandate, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund is examining opportunities to make, on a commercial basis, strategic investments that have the potential to support increased private and social housing output.
In the private market, the Fund is already involved in a number of important initiatives which cumulatively can make a contribution to increased housing output. This includes its investments in Activate Capital, which is an innovative non-bank financing platform that has the potential to provide funding for substantial numbers of new homes in Dublin and the other major urban centres in which demand is most pronounced; Ardstone Residential Partnership, which is a residential equity investment fund that is focused on delivering residential units to the market over the short- to medium-term; and the Wilbur Ross Cardinal Commercial Real Estate Mezzanine Debt Fund, which has funded a number of residential developments in recent months.
The Fund is also engaging across a wide range of stakeholders, including private sector investors, with a view to identifying opportunities to invest in the area of social housing. Key factors which must be addressed to facilitate ISIF involvement in such projects include the commercial viability of proposals, Eurostat treatment of fund structures which receive the majority of their revenue from Government sources and the ability to create off-balance sheet vehicles, outside of PPPs, which is a requirement to make proposals work. While, to date, no investible projects or initiatives have emerged, the Fund is continuing to engage proactively with possible social housing investment structures and opportunities and will continue to do so in accordance with its statutory mandate to invest on a commercial basis in a way that supports wider economic additionality.