One of Ireland’s largest trade unions invested €290,000 in a controversial real estate investment trust (REIT).
Fórsa, the second-largest union in the country, made the investment in Hibernia REIT in May of this year. The value of the union's stock has already increased.
Hibernia REIT has been trading since 2013 and boasts a €1.4 billion property portfolio that includes 309 Dublin apartments. In 2015 it announced its acquisition of the entire Dundrum View complex in Dublin for €28 million, predicting it would return €1.36 million in annual net rent.
At the time of the acquisition, Hibernia REIT said two-bed apartments in Dundrum View were let for an average of €1,500 per month. Last week it successfully let a one-bedroom apartment in the complex for €1,705 per month.
Commenting on Fórsa’s investment in Hibernia REIT, trade unionist Brendan Ogle said, “There’s money to be made in the human misery attached to” Ireland’s housing crisis.
Fórsa represents over 80,000 members working in the public and civil service. In May of this year the union purchased 250,000 shares in Hibernia REIT at a cost of €291,000. In the past four months, their investment has grown by 4.3 percent and the shares are now valued at €303,500.
The day after the union made the investment, one of its senior leaders took aim at government housing policy.
“What passes for housing policy is there to serve private construction and investment funds,” said Fórsa outgoing local government chairperson Sean Reid at the union’s annual Local Authorities Divisional Conference held on 12 May 2021.
A little more than a week later, the union's general secretary noted the influence of "aggressive investors" in the Irish housing market.
“The current housing crisis is a malingering after-effect of the last economic crisis, and a generation is now priced out of an affordable place to live, in a market infested with aggressive investors,” said Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan in a press release issued 22 May, 2021.
‘The housing emergency is a deliberate ideological creation’
Speaking to The Ditch, senior trade union official at Unite Brendan Ogle suggested "socially responsible and politically progressive" investments unions could make.
“Where unions are investing member funds there are plenty of ethical and socially progressive opportunities available. The housing emergency is a deliberate ideological creation, as is its deliberate continuance. There’s money to be made in the human misery attached to it.
“Unions should be highlighting those political choices and campaigning against them while calling for, and supporting, public housing. They could even use their members and funds to build affordable housing. That would be socially responsible and politically progressive” said Ogle.
Fórsa declined to answer any questions on their recent investment in Hibernia REIT.