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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2021

7 - The New Waves of Financialisation: Vultures and REITs

Summary

The Irish state's strategy to overcome the global property and financial crash of 2008 and achieve the recovery of financial institutions and the wider economy was based on the sale of ‘toxic’ and ‘non-performing’ loans and associated land and property, at a considerable discount, to international ‘vulture funds’ and property investors via the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and domestic banks. Central to this approach was supporting rental and house price inflation to bring about a recovery in the property market and therefore asset prices, and thus increase the attractiveness of these loans to potential vulture and investor fund purchasers, and improve the balance sheets of the bailed-out Irish banks. The strategy was based on a deepening of the financialisation of the Irish housing (and wider property) system. Irish governments enticed the ‘wall of money’ of private equity, global investors and vulture funds into Ireland to buy up the toxic loans and assets from NAMA, from the liquidators of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank) and from the other Irish banks. In 2013, an emerging housing shortage became a further rationale of the government to justify incentives for global property funds that it was hoped would contribute to increasing the ‘supply’ of housing.

This chapter explains how this policy approach, enacted by the Irish state and the Fianna Fáil-and Fine Gael-led governments over the period 2008–19, but in particular during the Fine Gael–Labour government of 2011–16, has resulted in ‘non-bank entities’ such as vulture funds and international financial institutions purchasing large bundles of mortgages at a discount from Irish financial institutions, the hoarding of land bought at discount from NAMA and the banks by foreign investors, the increased purchase by investors of new and existing housing pushing out prospective home owners, a massive inflation in rents fuelled by Ireland's new investor landlord class, the real estate investment trusts (REITs), and increasing repossessions of homes and buy-to-let property. Through NAMA and the sale of assets from the winding-up of the former Anglo Irish Bank and other Irish banks, vulture funds had bought up to 90,000 properties and held at least €10.3 billion worth of assets in Ireland by 2016 (RTÉ One, 2017).