Saturday 16 December 2017

Hundreds of much-needed new homes snapped up by investors

One in seven properties go to 'non-occupiers' as crisis in housing supply continues

A shortage of supply in new homes is set to fuel price rises. Stock picture
A shortage of supply in new homes is set to fuel price rises. Stock picture
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Hundreds of new homes, built to ease pressure for first-time buyers and those hoping to move, are being snapped up by investors.

One-in-seven new homes sold since January 2016 have been bought by "non-occupiers", with investors accounting for a quarter of total house purchases. New data reveals almost 11,000 units have been bought by investors over the last 16 months as the housing crisis deepens.

The figures, gleaned from property price data produced by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), will add to pressure on the Government to ramp-up housing delivery to ease rising prices and soaring rents.

Last year, just under 15,000 units were completed, at least 10,000 fewer than the number needed to meet demand.

In the first three months of 2017, almost 3,900 are finished. This suggests that while numbers will increase year-on-year, the shortage of supply is likely to fuel further price hikes.

The data shows that so far this year, some 871 newly constructed houses and apartments were sold, of which 135 - or 15pc - were bought by investors.

In six areas, all new units were bought by non-occupiers, according to the CSO. In Carragaline, Co Cork, just seven new homes were sold, all to investors. Just one new home was sold in Dublin 5, Cavan, Clones, Fermoy and Skibbereen, and all were sold to non-occupiers.

Property prices have risen by 10.5pc in the year to date - the fastest rate of growth increase since May 2015. Rents have also reached an all-time high, according to property website daft.ie, with average monthly rents now standing at €1,131.

Unless there is a dramatic increase in supply, prices are expected to continue to rise.

The analysis also shows between January last year and April 2017, some 3,546 new homes have been sold. Of these, 548 were by non-occupiers.

When all sales across the 16 months are taken into account, the data reveals that 44,979 existing houses and apartments traded hands, of which 10,713 were snapped up by investors - almost 24pc. Of the 139 areas for which data is available, investors bought at least 20pc of all homes available for purchase.

Just over 60pc of units were bought by investors in Clifden, Co Galway, an area popular with holidaymakers. This is the highest rate in the country.

Dublin 2 and Dublin 1 are the most popular locations in Dublin. This includes the IFSC and headquarters of multi-nationals. The figures also show investors are busy in the regional cities, where prices are also rising fast and supply is not meeting demand.

In Galway and the northside of Cork city, one-in-three of all homes sold was to a non-occupier. In south Cork, it drops to just under 30pc. In Limerick, the figure stands at 27.6pc and rises to 33pc in Waterford.

The Government has made repeated efforts to boost supply including reducing development levies and introducing the €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF). This is designed to open up large tracts of land by providing services including roads or community facilities, and applies to developments in excess of 500 units in the Dublin area or in excess of 200 units outside Dublin, and is expected to yield 23,000 units.

The Department of Housing said there was no policy to restrict buyers of homes, adding that the LIHAF fund would help "promote the pace" of housing.

"There are no proposals under Rebuilding Ireland to introduce measures which would restrict who could buy new homes. With regard to LIHAF, developers are not receiving any financial assistance under this scheme. Funding is going to Local Authorities who will build public infrastructure such as roads and bridges by means of a public procurement process.

"The acceleration in the delivery of necessary public infrastructure will enable developers to develop sites quicker than would otherwise have been the case and promote the pace of housing delivery."

Irish Independent

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