Saturday 1 October 2016

We need houses, but where have the developers gone?

The Government says that it will deliver 25,000 houses per year by 2020 - but who's going to build them all? Ronald Quinlan looks at the possible contenders and assesses their suitability for the task

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

Once again, we find ourselves living in interesting times when it comes to the dynamic of our property market Photo: PA
Once again, we find ourselves living in interesting times when it comes to the dynamic of our property market Photo: PA

Once again, we find ourselves living in interesting times when it comes to the dynamic of our property market.

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Having overreached to a disastrous degree in the years of the boom, with 90,000 homes built in 2006 alone and a peak price of €84m per acre paid for development land in Dublin 4, the country went through seven years following the crash where its previous obsession became its greatest source of misery and shame.

During that time, the mere mention of property development or a property developer was anathema as successive governments took their orders from the Troika in a bid to repair the national balance sheet.

So it's not surprising that hardly a house was built and that sites previously poised for development as offices and hotels lay dormant. And so, despite early warnings from bodies such as the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI), individual developers such as Michael O'Flynn and the economist Ronan Lyons that we would soon be facing a shortage of housing and commercial office space, our politicians buried their heads in the sand up to the point where it was already too late.

While Housing Minister Simon Coveney's success or failure in meeting this formidable challenge may well make or break his chances of succeeding Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader, the question of who will deliver the 25,000 new homes a year is one worth asking.

Nama, for its part, has pledged repeatedly to build 20,000 homes by 2020. But even if that target is met, it represents a fraction of what will be required. So where are all the developers gone, and what role can or should they play, if any, in rebuilding Ireland?

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