Writing | Business | Property | Social Change

Sunday Property Round-Up, October 22nd

The broadsheets today are dominated by the aftermath of storm of Ophelia and the ongoing tracker mortgage scandal, which seems to deepen as more stories emerge.  The Sunday Business Post leads  with the headline ‘Tracker scandal: Banks face and junctions over repossession cases’.

 

 Tiny homes, big story

 

Naas, in County Kildare, looks set to be the first local authority to pilot a project developing so-called ‘tiny homes’ after local councillors passed the motion. These homes will have a  floor space area of under 35 m² and will cost somewhere in the region of €40,000 to construct. While this will be a novel  project in Naas, it might be very necessary in Dublin and Cork and in other cities experiencing chronic housing shortage at the moment.

If you are as interested in the tiny home movement as I am, head over to our RIPPLE Facebook Page for lots of chat.

 

Building Up

Richard Curran, writing in the Independent today, has a piece titled ‘Nama would be a big winner from Murphy’s high-rise Dublin plan’.  This piece is in relation to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s stated intention to tackle the current restrictions in Dublin, which he describes as “faintly ridiculous restrictions”.  These restrictions include height limitations, stated number of car parking space is that must be provided, and the controversial restriction for dual-aspect windows.  In a speech delivered at the Irish Planning Institute Autumn conference, the Minister  spoke about these changes and where the changes might happen. For example he referred specifically to the area of Dublin city between the canals.   In this article, Richard Curran points out that the obvious place for this to work would be in the Docklands area where public transport links are strong.  He suggests that such a change could substantially increase the number of residential units built along the river including sites next to the new Central Bank building and another on North Wall Quay.  It will be interesting to see if the headlines in this case translate into policy changes.

 

 Commercial property

 

Regular readers will know that last week’s budget 2018 commentary was dominated by the tripling  of the stamp duty on commercial property transactions from 2% to 6%.  Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has since issued an unapologetic defence of this decision,  declaring it to be in the national interest.

Also,  CBRE are quoting €1.4m for 50-52 Bolton Street, a mixed-use investment property with residential development –  particularly student accommodation – potential.

 

 Other property news

 

  • Plans for a Dublin branch of the famous, or perhaps infamous, Covent Garden Ivy restaurant  have run into planning difficulties due to the retail/restaurant planning currently in place, which would require the restaurant seating to be mainly in the basement. Owners of the Dawson Street building, Green Reit,  is sticking to have this changed and has written to Dublin City Council in this regard.

 

  • Ian Kehoe writes in the Sunday Business Post  that ‘Barrett must beat Deutsche to regain his assets’,  referring to the ongoing battle to buy Gerry Barrett’s hotel and property empire out of examinership. While initially there were 17 potential investors, it now appears to be bid-off between Barrett and Deutsche Bank.

 

  • A number of London hedge funds have emerged as major shareholders in Glenveagh, following the house building company being floated on the Irish stock exchange two weeks ago.

 

  • On page 6 of the business section in The Sunday Times today, Niall Brady interviews Ian Lawlor head of Lotus Investment Group, the alternative development finance provider. Since launching in late 2013, Lotus has loaned more than €220 million for 130 different projects,  which translates into about 2,500 new homes  at a time when new homes were – and still are – badly needed.   [He was the man who introduced me to the almost-century old book ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’  almost a decade ago and for that I will be forever grateful.]

 

  • Dublin City Council is due to examine the impact of Airbnb and other short-term rentals on the Dublin housing market. This is seen as the start of an initiative to  the clamp down on short-term lettings within the city, as seen in other European cities.

 

  • CRH  has won control of US cement giant Ash Grove for $3.5 billion after the rival bidder, former CRH executives, failed to submit an offer by the formal deadline.

 

  • The SBP runs an old story on page 7 that is, an architect in support of  Johnny Ronan’s landmark tower criticising the council’s rejection of the plan.  To be fair, the architect, Richard Coleman, makes the point that “The purpose of a landmark is that it is visible”.

 

  • Simon Rowe  has an interesting piece today ‘Social housing hit by immigrant investor rules:  Chinese entrepreneurs pull out of plans worth millions after changes on residency’.  This article reports that plans to build thousands of new social housing units have been put in jeopardy after policy changes to rules governing Ireland’s ‘invest for residency’ scheme were changed last January from €500,000 to €1m.  Double Property Group confirmed that about 125 social housing units out of a total of 250 scheduled for delivery under the scheme had been scrapped or delayed after 13 Chinese investment partners bowed out when the rules changed, representing a loss of €15 million worth of investment.

 

  • The property supplement in the Sunday Independent today has the lead story by Katy McGuinness entitled ‘An eco-home of your own’ and it features an unusual property in County Leitrim. This feature is definitely worth a read  if you are planning an eco-build of your own.

 

  • Sw3 has closed a €51 million deal for a block of 138  apartments at Elmfield in Leopardstown, South Dublin.

 

  • Relm, the property fund launched earlier this year by former AIB bankers, is set to receive another €100 million in backing from its main funder,  according to Jack Horgan-Jones and the SBP today.

 

 

  • O’Malley Homes and Development has ended its relationship with US Investment fund Cerberus after a €100 million refinancing deal, according to the Sunday Independent today.   Cerberus had acquired the loans from Nama, and it is now understood that O’Malley Homes and Development have had its loans refinanced by Bank of Ireland and the WLR Cardinal Mezzanine fund.

 

  • It is impossible to read Ronan Lyons’ column each week without learning something. This week he talks about a visit to Saskatoon in Canada more than a decade ago. He  remarks on the country as follows “Canada is a huge and sparsely-populated country. At roughly 2.5 billion acres, if the entire human race broke up into families of three, we each have an acre. Yet here, in the middle of the vastness of Canada, a classic ‘Central Business District rose into the sky”.  His point is that the cluster of tall buildings in the middle of the city is not a quirk or vanity project but rather reflects  human nature that make us look to live and work near others.   He then looks at Dublin as a city and the current restrictions on height,  noting that the lack of tall buildings is not about lack of demand but rather antiquated policy that is no longer sustainable.  But of course building apartments carries a much higher risk than developing out suburban housing Estates, which can be done on a piecemeal approach. He points out emerging trends outside of Ireland where  development of fewer than 500 units is viewed as inefficient and building developments of this size means height, not width, which is key to future-proofing development plans.

 

  • In the SBP, Karl Deeter writes ‘ Those who say we can’t give away land miss the point: we are punishing all of society for bad management’.  Following on from a previous article he wrote about the likelihood of another housing crash in the 2020s, which he describes as inevitable,  he asks the question “What have we done?”.  Likening Ireland to “a fly in search of a windscreen” [my favourite quote of the day, by the way!],  he put forward the argument for the state, as the largest landowner and land banker, needs to release land in order to counter the destructive nature of rising land prices.

 

  • In The Sunday Times, Lorcan Sirr writes that ‘Same old ideas won’t kick-start the market’  and that relying on the usual private sector players and solutions to the house-building  crisis doesn’t offer a way out of the current stagnation and short-term thinking. Of course, we know he’s right. He makes an interesting  suggestion for the use of pension funds, especially the Garda pension fund, in building housing for their own members or how about why we are not taking land under part V agreements from developers for €1,000 per site rather than buying  apartments from them for more than €350,000?

 

 

  • Adrian Weckler, writing a technology piece, states that ‘We can’t afford more Athenrys’,   referring to news last week that one of the main objectors to the proposed Apple site in  Athenry  was actually trying to promote his own Wicklow site for the same project.  This one person was a contributing factor in the two year delay of a major infrastructural amenity  in a part of the country that badly needs it.  It took the High Court too long to dismiss this particular object are on the grounds of relevance.  While they were certainly other factors that play, this almost three-year delay  was damaging to the project and the writer here maintains “Ireland can no longer afford to be so slow at planning”.   I don’t believe many in the industry would disagree with the sentiment.

 

Proptech

 

Three proptech start-ups are featured in the Sunday business post today: Vrai, a Dublin-based virtual reality start-up, Spotahome, an online platform for rentals and Moove,  The latest in a trend of hybrid estate agencies to hit Ireland.

 

Page 7 of the business section in the Sunday times today carries  an interesting article “Bigger than the Internet? Why blockchain is fuelling the Bitcoin boom: The technology behind cryptocurrencies is transformational but the risks are high” –  definitely worth a read if you’re interested.

 

It is worth noting that Bitcoin has surged to a record high of more than $6,000 last Friday, representing gains of over 500% this year.

 

To keep up-to-date on all things tech and innovation for the planning, construction and property industries, head over to http://www.prop-tech.ie, the national resource website for innovators, investors and mentors.

We have no more free mentoring sessions for #proptech start-ups  this month but the list for November and December is now open – after Christmas we will have dates in January, February and March before this CSR initiative ends, email  news@prop-tech.ie for details.

Property Insiders Guide

 

Oak Tree Press has launched their new ebook series for the Irish property market this , further details here:   http://www.successstore.com/property-insiders-guides.html

Also, as regular readers will know, the Irish Property Buyers’ Handbook is being updated for 2018 and I would love to hear about any experiences in the market or new services, technology and trends for buyers.   As always, you are welcome to email me with any industry news and updates at Carol@CarolTallon.com.

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