Thursday 29 September 2016

Families squeezed out as investors snap up homes

Speculators have bought almost 9,000 homes in nearly every county for as little as €6,000 each

Paul Melia and Dr Mick Kerrigan

Published 23/04/2016 | 02:30

Typical transaction 1: Elm Park Merrion Road, Dublin 4 Data from the Property Price Register shows a total of 139 units bought in two blocks – The Links and The Bay – on February 17 this year for €51.9m. The buyer was real estate investment firm Starwood Capital. This was part of a larger deal to acquire the entire development at a cost of €190m.
Typical transaction 1: Elm Park Merrion Road, Dublin 4 Data from the Property Price Register shows a total of 139 units bought in two blocks – The Links and The Bay – on February 17 this year for €51.9m. The buyer was real estate investment firm Starwood Capital. This was part of a larger deal to acquire the entire development at a cost of €190m.
2. Park Lodge North Circular Road, Dublin 7 A total of 62 units sold to the Patrizia German Residential Fund on April 10/2015 for €15.1m. Developed in 2008 on the site of the former Park Hotel, a one-bedroom apartment was recently let for €1,250 per month.
3. Marker Residences Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2 A total of 84 apartments bought on July 24/2014 by I-Res REIT for €40.2m. The block includes six commercial units, and a twobedroom apartment is available from €2,700 per month.

Property funds have spent more than €1.9bn snapping up thousands of houses and apartments as the country grapples with the deepest housing crisis in its history.

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Entire streets and apartment blocks have been bought in multi-million euro deals as families struggle to buy a home and rental costs soar due to the lack of supply.

An analysis of transactions shows almost 9,000 units were bought in some 300 deals since 2010, with properties purchased for as little as €6,000 each.

The properties were sold despite the Government committing to tackling the growing housing crisis, including pledging to maximise delivery of units "owned by Nama or its debtors" for social housing and launching two major policy documents in 2014 aimed at solving the crisis.

An analysis of the Property Price Register shows that €1.906bn was spent, with the vast bulk of the homes - 7,500 - bought in Dublin, Cork and Galway. These are also the areas where the cost of buying or renting a home has shot up due to the shortage of properties coming onto the market.

But the analysis also shows huge numbers were also purchased in other counties including Cavan, Limerick, Kildare, Wicklow and Louth.

The units were sold by a variety of interests including receivers, banks and Nama. Many were in unfinished developments, and the record year for sales was 2014, when transactions involving 2,400 units totalling €666m were completed.

That same year, three strategy documents were published setting out the outgoing government's commitments to addressing the housing crisis, including Construction 2020, the Social Housing Strategy and a Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016, which listed "improving housing availability and affordability" as one of the key priorities.

However, in 2014 and 2015, almost €1.2bn was spent on more than 5,300 units by investors.

This is despite the government committing more than €700m in both of these years to the capital social housing programme, which allowed local authorities to build or buy housing units.

The Department of the Environment confirmed that local authorities were allowed to buy units sold by Nama or receivers.

It added that the Social Housing Strategy published in November 2014 was the "first time in a number of years" that increased funding was available.

"Local authorities and approved housing bodies were free to purchase any houses offered for sale on the market thereafter which were suitable for social housing," it said, adding that 1,000 were purchased last year.

"Local authorities are free to purchase any units they wish but they have to be sensitive to the issues in each local market and bear in mind that not all properties for sale are suitable for social housing.

"In addition, if the State was to intervene in the market and simply buy all the houses then you would deny other prospective purchasers the pathway to home ownership."

The data also show:

• The highest spend over the five years examined was in Dublin, at €1.6bn, followed by Cork and Galway.

• There were no transactions of 10 or more units in Mayo, Longford, Leitrim or Tipperary.

• The average price paid per unit was at its lowest in 2011, at €150,752, which rose to €278,757 in 2014.

• The spending is continuing, with €140m invested in 777 units so far this year.

The figures come as the number of new homes remains way below the level needed to meet demand.

Last year, just over 12,000 were completed - but the Housing Agency says around 25,000 a year are needed every year just to keep pace with demand.

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