So­cial hous­ing hit by im­mi­grant in­vestor rules

Chi­nese en­trepreneurs pull out of plans worth mil­lions af­ter changes on res­i­dency, writes Si­mon Rowe

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

PLANS to build thou­sands of new so­cial hous­ing units have been put in jeop­ardy and at least €60m of planned for­eign in­vest­ment has been lost af­ter rules gov­ern­ing Ire­land’s ‘in­vest for res­i­dency’ scheme were changed with­out con­sul­ta­tion with stake­hold­ers, a num­ber of se­nior Ir­ish prop­erty sources have claimed.

Prop­erty firm Dou­ble Prop­erty Group, a player in Ire­land’s so­cial-hous­ing sec­tor, said the rais­ing of in­vest­ment thresh­olds in Jan­uary this year had ren­dered the Im­mi­grant In­vestor Pro­gramme “dead in the wa­ter” in terms of stim­u­lat­ing in­vest­ment.

Of­fi­cials at the Ir­ish Nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice an­nounced new thresh­olds for qual­i­fy­ing in­vest­ments in Jan­uary, rais­ing them from €500,000 to €1m. The thresh­old was raised af­ter a huge spike in IIP ap­pli­ca­tions in 2016.

NON-EEA in­vestors are granted res­i­dency in ex­change for in­vest­ing in Ir­ish so­cial hous­ing, care homes, bonds, stocks, prop­erty and en­ter­prises, or for mak­ing a large phil­an­thropic gift or en­dow­ment.

Ap­proved par­tic­i­pants are granted res­i­dence in Ire­land for two years, which can be re­newed for a fur­ther three years. Af­ter five years, they are en­ti­tled to ap­ply for long-term res­i­dency here.

Dou­ble Prop­erty Group has con­firmed that about 125 so­cial hous­ing units out of a to­tal of 250 sched­uled for de­liv­ery un­der the scheme had been scrapped or de­layed af­ter 30 Chi­nese in­vest­ment part­ners bowed out when the rules changed. This rep­re­sented a loss of €15m worth of in­vest­ment.

Co-owner Clodagh Robin­son said the prop­erty firm had plans to build 1,500 so­cial hous­ing units be­tween 2016 and 2018. How­ever, since Jan­uary, it had seen “a com­plete col­lapse of in­vest­ment from China, par­tic­u­larly for so­cial hous­ing in­vest­ment in Ire­land”.

Chi­nese in­vestors com­prise the big­gest group­ing of suc­cess­ful IIP ap­pli­cants to date. A fur­ther €45m of in­vest­ment ear­marked for IIP schemes pro­moted by Deloitte — a ma­jor player in the pro­vi­sion of care homes un­der the IIP scheme — was lost when a co­hort of 90 Chi­nese in­vestors bowed out when they could not meet the new €1m thresh­old, it is un­der­stood. Deloitte de­clined to com­ment.

Bar­tra Cap­i­tal Prop­erty Group warned of­fi­cials ear­lier this year that the new rules could have a “cat­a­strophic ef­fect on the vol­ume of ap­pli­ca­tions, FDI and job cre­ation”.

A spokesman for the Depart­ment of Hous­ing said it “has con­tacts with the Ir­ish Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion Ser­vice in re­la­tion to the oper­a­tion of the Im­mi­grant In­vestor Pro­gramme in re­spect of ap­pli­ca­tions that may re­late to po­ten­tial in­vest­ment in so­cial hous­ing schemes.

“The depart­ment has not raised con­cerns in re­spect of any changes to the oper­a­tion of the pro­gramme. Fur­ther, the depart­ment has not re­ceived ex­pres­sions of con­cern from po­ten­tial ap­pli­cants in re­spect of any changes to the pro­gramme.”

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