The recovery in new home completions in the final quarter of 2020, bringing the total for the year to 20,676 marking a drop of only 1.9 percent on 2019 but an increase of 15.9 percent in Q4 2020 over Q4 2019 is an indication of the construction industry’s ability to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, and augurs well for 2021, IPAV, the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers said.
“It is to be hoped that with positive trends on virus infections and the coming on stream of vaccines, that the current lockdown can be lifted sooner rather than later, but, even at that, it will take some time for supply levels to reach anywhere close to reaching demand, given wider issues with the supply of new homes.
“The Central Bank has estimated we will need to build 34,000 new homes every year up to 2030, so there is a long way to go.
“But supplying homes that are affordable for those on average wages remains a real problem for which there is no apparent solution, except perhaps for the promised Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme where the State will provide equity support to those seeking to buy homes but are unable to secure the full mortgage to do so,” Pat Davitt, IPAV Chief Executive, said.
Mr Davitt said the Central Bank mortgage rules are just too severe for this cohort of the population who cannot achieve the aspiration of owning a home, while public policy forces them to pay substantially more in rent, in almost every area of the country, than it would cost to repay a mortgage.
He called on the Government to set up, without delay, the promised Commission on Housing.
“It is critical that this body would have input from all stakeholders, so that past mistakes can be avoided and the major impediments that remain to building sufficient homes are addressed,” he said.
IPAV Launches Farming Report 2020
Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, land prices in 2020 have remained remarkably resilient throughout the country, according to the IPAV Farming Report which was launched by Martin Heydon TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
And while volumes may be down arising from the pandemic, with some vendors holding off on selling, demand is particularly strong with notable interest from cash rich non-farmers chasing a better return than they would get elsewhere.
Pat Davitt, Chief Executive of IPAV, said there are a number of factors driving demand.
“Some of these factors have been with us for some time, such as smaller farmers wishing to increase their holdings where neighbouring, usually small plots, come on the market; larger farms consuming smaller ones and continuing interest in land leasing, particularly by younger farmers who are not in a position to buy their own holdings.
“However, the newer factors include investors chasing a better return on their money, returning exiles and the normalisation in working from home. These latter factors in particular augur well for the future of rural residential holdings and land values. If they are sustained they will improve viability on smaller holdings with greater opportunities for off-farm income and will breathe new life into rural Ireland,” he said.
Mr Davitt said while the Covid-19 pandemic persists into 2021 it is likely to again impact the volume of land coming onto the market, at least in the first six months of the year. And he said the impact of Brexit remains to be seen but it will create new opportunities for many while other sectors will be adversely affected.
The age profile of Irish farmers is on the high side with about one-third over age 66. Leasing land long-term has become the only viable option in recent years for many young farmers hoping to run their own farms, he said.
“Last year’s increase in Stamp Duty to 7.5 percent is an additional impediment for young, ambitious and educated farmers in attempting to buy holdings. We’re going to need such farmers to lead and drive new opportunities in the Green Economy.”
In terms of Brexit, while finalisation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came as a welcome achievement in the dying days of 2020, it does mean very detailed new regulatory and customs requirements for those trading with or through the UK.
Brexit also impacts Common Agricultural Policy funding, which sustains the Irish and European family farming system. While it will be several months hence before the final details emerge, the new CAP does place much greater emphasis on climate change measures and the reduction in carbon emissions.
“Farmers are the custodians of our environment and must be centrally involved in decision-making around such initiatives,” he concluded.