Friday 6 December 2019

Irish Life cools interest in social housing

Irish Life chief executive David Harney. Picture: Andres Poveda
Irish Life chief executive David Harney. Picture: Andres Poveda
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Talks about Irish Life deploying its pension funds towards social housing have come to nothing.

Last year the insurance and pensions company's chief executive David Harney said Irish Life would be interested in investing in social housing if the right model could be put in place with the Government.

"We haven't made any approaches [to the Government] specifically from Irish Life, there have been sort of side conversations, and people are aware there's lots of money in pension funds and pension funds are keen to look for opportunities to invest," Harney told reporters last January.

However earlier this week Patrick Burke, the head of Irish Life's head of investment management unit, said there were no talks taking place with the authorities.

"We'd want to be absolutely certain that we can implement and execute on behalf of our customers without constraints. Sometimes social housing and social housing policy puts constraints in place - that doesn't necessarily work for customers. And so we would always be mindful of that," Burke added. Burke said however that the company is readying plans for a move into the build-to-rent market for residential property. The company's plan is to be a capital investor in specific projects rather than taking stakes in housebuilding companies like Cairn Homes or Glenveagh Properties.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing said it "continues to engage with a broad range of stakeholder, including financial institutions and other potential funders, to explore and encourage how additional private investment can facilitate the increased supply of new housing".

"In addition, we are continuing to develop and refine initiatives such as long-term leasing arrangements, public-private partnerships and other mechanisms to unlock the capacity and potential of significant funders with a longer-term horizon, such as pension funds, to assist in both public and private housing provision."

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