Monday 11 December 2017

The Punt: Not enough new homes on the market

File pic of work on Peyton estate in Rathcoole, Co Dublin. 130,000 new homes are needed on the market to fill demand.
File pic of work on Peyton estate in Rathcoole, Co Dublin. 130,000 new homes are needed on the market to fill demand.

A whopping 130,000 homes need to come on to the market in the short term in order to satisfy current housing needs, the new president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) -- Robin Mandal -- has warned.

It's a huge amount and there's no way they can be built in the short term. Industry observers reckon we need about 20,000 homes a year being built, but at the moment just a few thousand are being built.

With Dublin house prices rising, it all seems as if there could be a genuine problem down the road if house building doesn't recommence with some reasonable degree of pace soon.

The Punt was interested recently to see a planning application lodged with a Dublin council by a builder wanting to complete a development started by another firm just as the economy went into freefall, and which remained unfinished until now.

Mr Mandal, meanwhile, has said that Ireland needs a construction permits system that balances the need for rigour with avoiding unnecessary delays "that can lead to price increases for consumers".

He claims that if the Government doesn't address the lack of efficiencies in planning and permits systems "consumers will suffer with a more volatile property market, job creation will be stifled and tax revenues will suffer".

Who thought that failing to tackle the property sector could have such damaging consequences . . . Oh wait.

Report a sight for sore eyes

WARBY Parker is an American eyewear manufacturer that has become one of the trendiest brands in the US thanks to the number of celebrities buying their dark framed glasses. The firm is known for its innovation in a traditionally staid business -- most of its sales are done through mail delivery.

It is innovating in another area now, too. The company has just published its latest annual report, and as far as The Punt can tell, it is unique.

An annual report is usually a boring compendium of management speak and company accounts. An oil company might highlight all the good it is doing for the environment, an agri-firm might emphasise how well it treats its suppliers. Most of that corporate speak, however, won't mention anything negative, while the potted biographies usually ignore embarrassing facts about directors. At least one year, Greencore's biography of its former chairman Ned Sullivan neglected to mention his past as an Anglo director, for example.

Warby Parker's 2013 report comes in grid format, and a reader can pick any day they like to see the events that affected the company. It is a warts-and-all presentation and the firm says transparency is good for business.

The Punt agrees. We could think of a few Irish companies who could follow a similar tack. The annual report should be a one-stop shop for investors craving full information on the health of their company. Not the Pravda-like smokescreen it often is. Irish business would be wise to follow Warby Parker's lead.

Signs indicate Spain on mend

Is this a sign of how Europe's bruised and battered economies are really turning the corner? The Punt thinks that if the invitation it received this week to hear about investment opportunities in Spain had fallen on to the doormat even just this time last year, it would have raised eyebrows. Now it just raises one.

On Tuesday, the Spanish ambassador to Ireland, Javier Garrigues, will host a conference on investment opportunities in Spain. It will take place at the Dublin HQ of law firm Arthur Cox.

No doubt Spanish diplomats the world over are holding the same kind of events as their government tries to lure investment to the country. Plenty of attention has probably been paid to Ireland too, which has exited its bailout and has been attracting numerous foreign investors keen to snap up commercial property.

The conference will focus on new development opportunities in Spain and showcase two success stories. Telling those stories will be Donal O'Driscoll, the general director of Total Produce subsidiary ARC Eurobanan, which distributes fruit in Spain; and David Kelly, the boss of FBD Hotels, which operates two hotels in Malaga.

Irish Independent

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