Friday 18 October 2019

Developer Mulryan warns State must release land to end housing shortage

Sean Mulryan
Sean Mulryan
Kevin Nowlan
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

One of the country's foremost developers, Ballymore chief Sean Mulryan, has called on the Government to release land that it controls in the greater Dublin area and to enter into joint ventures with the country's house-builders in a bid to address the deepening housing crisis.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent at the launch last Thursday morning of Dublin Landings, the one-million-square-foot office and residential development the Ballymore Group is building in partnership with the Singapore-based Oxley Holdings, Mulryan warned there would be "very little improvement" in terms of housing supply until the State freed up lands which he said were currently "tightly-held".

While the Roscommon-born builder said first-time home buyers should be given some assistance in this Tuesday's Budget, it was the issue of land supply which needed to be "seriously" addressed.

He said: "The supply of land in the greater Dublin area is not there for the housebuilder. I know many housebuilders and they just don't have enough land. It's not available and it's tightly-held. The Government are in control of land with the local authorities and public bodies control a lot of land in the greater Dublin area.

"I think seriously, that they [the Government] need to start releasing it and doing joint ventures with housebuilders who would deliver the product. Until they do that, it [the housing situation] is going to be the way that it is right now. There's going to be very little improvement on the supply side."

Mulryan said he didn't see any "major problem" with the planning regulations, notwithstanding the concerns expressed by some commentators on the subject.

"The infrastructure is there for the land. It's just a matter of getting the land released so people like myself and my peers in the housebuilding sector who I know very well and talk to [can build homes]. They're all having the same problem. They just can't their hands on the land to build homes," he said.

Asked if Ballymore was pursuing further opportunities beyond its development in conjunction with Oxley Holdings of the Dublin Landings office scheme, which upon completion will include 273 luxury apartments, Mulryan said the group would continue to focus its attention on Dublin and the Greater Dublin area.

He said: "At the moment we're building in Naas in Co Kildare. We've got two projects on the go there. Generally, it's the greater Dublin area where we'd be focusing. We're hoping to do more projects and we're looking for opportunities right now, but land is very expensive, and has been over the last two years.

"We're finding it hard to justify some of the pricing, so that's why we're holding back."

While Mulryan's call for the State to free up lands for residential development will doubtless be welcomed by the growing number of young families currently searching in vain for an affordable, first home, it may not find favour with those who have persistently accused developers of 'hoarding land' with a view to increasing both its value, and their potential profits.

That accusation was levelled elsewhere last Thursday by the CEO of Hibernia REIT, Kevin Nowlan. Addressing those in attendance at the Real Estate Stakeholders Debate Brexit summit, of which the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent are media sponsors, Nowlan said: "State land is everywhere and it's not being managed. It needs to be freed up. It's all over the city centre and it's simply being hoarded".

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