A Derry offsite construction company owned by businessman Kevin Lagan has agreed deals for three projects in the greater Dublin area.
FastHouse, a specialist in rapid-build homes, will deliver the schemes which include 74 houses in Craddockstown, Co Kildare, 79 houses in Corkagh Grange in south Dublin and 49 houses in Ballymun in north Dublin.
The company said increasing demand for its products, which has seen it build up a sales pipeline of more than €22 million, had prompted it to invest £2.5 million (€2.78 million) in a fourth production line.
FastHouse built 466 holiday homes for the Center Parcs resort in Co Longford in 34 weeks. According to the company, its factory produced five houses a day, using 14,000 wall panels.
The company also recently won a series of other new housing contracts and is installing on sites in Dublin, Kildare, Cork and Offaly as well as a number of sites in the North and Britain.
"There is no doubt that the last 12 months have been very successful for the business, with notable housing contract wins resulting in a significant sales pipeline," said Sean Fox, FastHouse's sales director.
“Offsite construction and other modern methods are gradually being embraced by the industry and, going forward, we envisage this will certainly be more prevalent – for the most part to control the risk of increased labour costs and eliminate project delays, primarily due to skilled labour shortages,” he added.
While Center Parcs was FastHouse's biggest project to date, the Limavady-based company which employs 160 staff has also built holiday lodges for the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in addition to growing its residential business.
FastHouse was established in 2015, three years before Mr Lagan sold his group's building materials business to British company Breedon for £455 million in 2018. He kept some of his organisation's other operations, including its housebuilding division, which also plans to expand next year.
Meanwhile, homebuyers in an English town where properties typically cost almost 12 times local salaries may soon have a low-cost option from Ikea after a UK council agreed to work with an affordable housing developer co-owned by the retailer.
Worthing council has signed up with BoKlok, a company jointly owned by the Swedish retailer and construction company Skanska which specialises in factory-built housing that can be constructed at a low cost.
The company sets property prices so that buyers have money left to live on after they have paid their housing costs, and its website says “a single parent can afford to buy and live in a newly built two-bedroom BoKlok apartment”.
It has built 11,000 homes across Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, and is keen to break into the UK after a false start more than a decade ago.
Previous plans for a development in Tyneside were scaled back when the financial crisis hit, but its latest effort is a collaboration with Worthing council, which believes it can achieve more affordable homes through the deal than if it sells the land to a conventional developer.
Councillors in the coastal town have voted to work on a plan that would see 162 flats built on land that it owns.
The latest data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed that in 2018 average house prices in Worthing were 11.7 times average salaries, compared with a figure of 7.8 times across England and Wales.
In a report, the council said that access to homes was challenging for those on the average salary, which was £25,458 (€28,414) in 2015 – with only one-bedroom properties within reach, it noted.
An EY-DKM study in the Republic found a comparable picture recently, concluding that nearly half of all counties in the State are unaffordable for first-time buyers on average incomes.