Sunday 18 March 2018

East/west divide causing a drift towards Dublin

Ronán Long is chairman of Property Partners Nationwide
Ronán Long is chairman of Property Partners Nationwide

Ronan Long

Living along the Wild Atlantic Way is idyllic but it also carries its daily challenges. The infrastructural deficit between the west and east of the country is significant, taking its toll on our lifestyle. The lack of infrastructure investment is now causing pain which is reflected in housing shortages, inferior road networks, unsafe water infrastructure, and poor broadband connectivity.

As a result many prefer to drift towards Dublin, despite the cost of living, to find employment and to find a home.

Once you cross the Shannon the national road network is inferior and traffic congestion is a regular fact of life. The M17/18 Gort to Tuam Bypass in Galway will alleviate some of the frustration but there is no rail network linking Athenry and Claremorris, Co Mayo. Commuters from Tuam to Dublin must get the nearest bus service from Galway City to Dublin - what an indictment.

Extensive efforts by lobby groups to reinstate the Western Rail Corridor have proven unsuccessful to date. The latest report by the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Iarnród Éireann suggests that the State-owned rail operator is facing a funding crisis and a number of lines may need to be decommissioned. This was the response despite the findings of the latest Cicero Report on the Western Rail Corridor which confirmed the business case for reinstatement.

The biggest complaint we receive from our members in Property Partners is the lack of stock to meet consumer demand. The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) estimates that only 8,000 new units were built in 2015 against 25,000 new units required. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimates a total of 12,666 units for the same period including one-off builds.

As matters stand, the cost of building a standard four-bedroom detached unit (148sqm), apart from site cost, according to the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) is in the region of €208,000. Depending on location second-hand stock in the West is available at prices from €140,000 or less. Depending on location, the only construction underway is on self-build projects where the site has been provided by family.

Until we get to a stage where building becomes profitable, there will be no appetite for construction. The latest State Help-to-Buy scheme applies only to new builds and should be extended to first-time-buyers of second-hand homes.

The challenge of housing our returning emigrants, homeless, social housing demands etc, requires radical thinking and strategy to resolve the housing crisis.

Sunday Independent

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