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Senator says Danish housing system should prompt us to put Irish people first, not funds or trusts

Senator Sharon Keogan has called for the prioritising of Irish people in access to housing here, calling for ‘Irish homes for Irish people’. 

“If the Danish can do it, why can’t we?” the Independent politician said in an address before the Dail.

Her comments were made during a recent Seanad debate, during which Sen Keogan recounted conversations she’d had with young Irish people planning to emigrate outside of Ireland – linking the loss of young professionals to poor housing prospects in Ireland. 

“I spoke to a number of young people last week about many things but especially their plans for the future. Of course, travel featured on many of their lists. It has always been said that the time to do it is when we are young, but I was shocked by how many were planning for their travel to be permanent. 

“Emigration was a consistently common thread across many of these people’s plans. One person stated that loads of their mates were in America already and that person would probably end up there.

“Another said her friend had moved to Samoa where he now has his own house for the price of a student room in Dublin. It is no newsflash that we are losing many of our young professionals to emigration but every time I come face to face with it, there is something so bleak about the reality that, almost exclusively on account of their housing prospects, young Irishmen and Irishwomen see no future for themselves in their own country”.

She added: “It always makes me think, do we not have a duty to these people? To whom is our allegiance? Is it to the Exchequer, to multinational companies and to faceless overseas trusts generating percentage point profits for people who will never set foot in this country, or is it to our own, the ordinary people of Ireland? 

Pointing out that Ireland is not a poor country, Sen Keogan continued:

“They are not seeking inflated real estate portfolios or passive income investments but a roof over their heads and the opportunity to make a life for themselves just as we were all able to do. Ireland is a country of extraordinary wealth. We boast Europe’s second largest GDP per capita and the Government spends a staggering €80 billion every year on running the place, yet the basic need of Irish citizens is made unattainable”.

Calling for ‘Irish homes for Irish people’, she pointed out that Denmark’s housing system was working well for its people.

As a non-resident, it can be difficult navigating the process of buying a home in Denmark, where there are rules and conditions you must follow. To purchase property in the Scandinavian country, you’ll need to have lived in Denmark previously for a period of five years or more. In addition, you must currently be working in Denmark (EU nationals only) or have a valid residence or business permit if you are a non-EU national.

Further to that, non-residents are also required to seek permission from the Danish Department of Civil Affairs. If a prospective buyer meets both of these conditions, they then must choose the area they wish to buy in very carefully because some parts of the country have special restrictions on foreign ownership, primarily to protect some regions – such as popular coastal areas – from being dominated by property owners from outside the country.

For Britons, who are now classed as non-EU citizens, there is the requirement to have a visa and valid residence or business permit – as well as a minimum of five years of residence in Denmark – in order to get onto the property ladder there.

Senator Keogan continued: “Perhaps the phrase “Irish homes for Irish people” sounds a little alt-right to some people, as if meeting the needs of our own country is now extremism, but it is working well for the Danish. Foreigners who have not been resident in Denmark for a period of five years or more may only purchase real estate property if they obtain permission from the Danish Ministry of Justice, which is granted on a case-by-case basis. 

“This rule also applies to companies, associations, public or private institutions, foundations and foreign public authorities. It is very simple. In Denmark, houses are for living in and not for generating profits. If people are local, they can buy. If not, they must become locals first or show they will become so in the next few years. It is not that there are no other people in the queue for Danish houses. It is just that the Danes come first and are put there by their own Government.

“I do not expect an about-turn on housing policy in this country. Perhaps this is some food for thought. We ought to examine how a Danish-style system might work in Ireland”.

Her comments come as young Irish people are being forced to relocate in a bid to afford to buy housing – amid the country’s housing crisis. Commentators have described our housing market as ‘completely broken’ and have criticised the fact it is blocking young people from getting on the property ladder.

As reported by Gript, the latest housing sales report from Daft.ie, published on Monday, showed house prices in Ireland in the last three months rising by the biggest quarterly gain in almost two years – with average house prices up 3.8% in the second quarter of 2022.

The average cost of a home in Ireland has now increased to €311,874, and the Daft report notes that that average price is up almost 10% on the same period last year.

Recent CSO figures show Irish people are now almost 40 years old before they can buy their first home. The average age of single home buyers in Ireland has risen above 40, while it sits at 38 for joint purchasers.

The demand for housing continues to outstrip supply while multiple lenders have increased interest rates on mortgages in recent months. The increased cost of living and spiralling rent costs, particularly in Dublin, have added to the challenges faced by young people trying to access credit to buy a home. 

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