2008 Even before the stock market crash of September, the writing seems to be on the wall for Irish property. The days of housing developments selling direct from plans are already consigned to history and much of the media commentary is about slowdown. When it arrives in the autumn, the global crash is nothing short of a hammer-blow. Much of the crisis emanating from the US was built around mortgages being handed out too easily and at repayment costs that many people simply couldn’t afford. The effects are immediately felt here.
2009 Property prices tumble and the cranes that once pockmarked the skylines of our cities are nowhere to be seen. Huge numbers employed in the construction trade find themselves out of work and facing the prospect of emigrating to Australia or Canada. House prices plummet. Dublin city centre is especially hard hit with property prices down on average 42.5pc from the peak. The Government is forced to take stark action. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is established.
2010 There are some extraordinary bargains to be had for cash buyers. Dublin docklands apartments that commanded close to €500,000 during the boom are selling for less than €200,000. But young people hoping to get on the property ladder can only look on with envy. Banks are playing a very cautious game as stipulated by Central Bank guidelines. The credit supply that great swathes of the population took for granted simply dries up. It’s the year of the Troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – who have descended on Dublin; and the start of painful austerity measures.
2011 It takes an average of four months to sell a home in Dublin – and anywhere up to 13 months for a property in the Ulster counties. It’s a bad time for those looking to buy, but a happier environment for those wanting to rent. Two-bedroom apartments are easily obtainable in Dublin for under €1,200. There’s plenty of supply to meet the demand.
2012 Almost 30pc of mortgages are in arrears and there are regular newspaper reports of people who worry about losing their homes. There are some signs of recovery, but the property market remains deflated. It’s estimated that more than 45,000 incomplete homes – many of them in so-called ‘ghost estates’ – are dotted throughout the country, but there’s no appetite among developers to finish them.
2013 Finance Minister Michael Noonan starts to meet private equity vulture funds. For the vultures, there are many rich pickings to be had in Ireland, and they are quick to swoop. For the first time in decades, evictions become a feature of Irish life again. There are several heart-rending stories of people losing property that’s been in their families for generations. And it’s not just homes – farms are also seized. A resistance movement soon gets under way to challenge these evictions – and some, buoyed by social media, receive national attention.
2014 The Government publishes a six-year strategy, Social Housing Strategy 2020. It’s committed to providing 35,000 new social housing units at a cost of €3.8bn. But the big news is the rapid increase in both property prices and rents, and in Dublin the cranes start to populate the skyline again. The rising tide is not felt in other parts of the country however. And, behind all the talk of ‘recovery’, homeless charities say the numbers sleeping rough is on the increase.
2016 New housing minister Simon Coveney announces another ambitious plan. ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ pledges 200 rapid-build homes to be completed by the end of 2016 and another 800 by the end of 2017, while 130,000 new social housing units are promised by 2020. Meanwhile, the Government is urged to close the tax loopholes enjoyed by vulture funds. Christmas is marked by the occupation of the NAMA-owned Apollo House, Dublin, by homeless people and those campaigning on their behalf.
2017 Eoghan Murphy takes over as Housing Minister in June. It’s revealed that the average home rent nationwide is more than 10pc higher than at the apex of the Celtic Tiger. A Maynooth University study argues that the property market has not peaked yet and may continue to “escalate” over the next five years. There’s much talk about the office buildings shooting up in the capital – some of which will accommodate firms lured here thanks to Brexit. But there’s a pressing concern: just where will all these high-flying staff live when they get here?