Tuesday 12 December 2017

So what's the big hold-up on houses?

There have been no-end of Government initiatives over the last few years aimed at unlocking the potential in the construction sector
There have been no-end of Government initiatives over the last few years aimed at unlocking the potential in the construction sector
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Data revealed by the Irish Independent today shows developers are building, at least around Dublin, but at a far slower pace than is needed to meet demand.

What is the hold up?

There have been no-end of Government initiatives over the last few years aimed at unlocking the potential in the construction sector.

Some of that has paid off. Infrastructure is being built. Lack of planning or planning delays are no longer a major barrier to construction, even if some planners are still far more inclined than others to find reasons to block or slow permission.

Finance, in absolute terms, is also now available. Between the banks, Nama, big US equity funds and cash raised on stock market there are billions of euro potentially available to Irish builders.

However, having been blasted in the past, gun shy lenders are reluctant to go all in on schemes. Instead they're drip feeding loans instead of financing schemes upfront. It means construction even on big sites is happening on a smaller phase-by-phase scale.

The worst thing is that rather than being punished for market inefficiency, rising house prices mean builders have benefited from the slow pace of delivery, sparking concerns about land hoarding.

Who is building now?

It's a mix. The planning permission data shows pre-crash builders are still the mainstay of the sector, especially those like the Cosgrave, which has learned to live with Nama. It seems to be the best funded and most active.

Some new players - or old players with new financial backers - are active, and so are receivers.

Are receivers really building, or just getting planning to sell on sites?

Building, at least in some case. Grant Thornton, for example, has become one of the biggest developers in the country, a strange state of affairs. In many cases, receivers are a front for Nama, which has a target to deliver 3,000 new homes, and can fund receivers it installed in the first place to produce the goods.

Is there an end in sight to the housing shortages?

Not at the current pace of construction. A big shake-up - either a funding carrot to speed up builders, or a tax stick to hurt lenders - is needed to force an acceleration of activity.

Irish Independent

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