Under-39 own just one in eight homes in Republic, developer estimates

Potential first-time buyers continue to bear brunt of housing crisis, Cairn Homes

People aged under 39 own just one in eight homes in the Republic as a result of the housing crisis, a leading builder estimates.

Cairn Homes warned that potential first-time buyers continued to bear the brunt of the crisis as it reported that Covid-19 restrictions had left profits trailing by 75 per cent at €12.7 million last year.

Michael Stanley, its chief executive, said the company had calculated that the next census could show that people aged 25 to 39, traditional first-time buyers, own just 12 per cent of homes in the Republic.

In 2011, that age group owned 22 per cent of homes but that fell to 16 per cent five years later, when the total number of dwellings was two million. The State is due to carry out the next census later this year.


“It would not surprise us if that number was as low as 12 per cent,” Mr Stanley said. He argued that the housing crisis “has now further deteriorated”.

The construction chief called on all stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work together to aid the 575,000 workers in the State who have little or no prospect of owning their own homes.

Cairn’s chief executive also predicted that new planning laws would replace the current fast-track housing scheme.

This allows builders to seek permission for projects of at least 100 homes direct from An Bord Pleanála and bypass local councils.

He added that the new system should be faster and more efficient. “That will reduce the time for planning from 24 months to 12,” he said.

Cairn said turnover in 2020 fell 40 per cent to €262 million from €435 million in 2019.

Its operating profit declined by almost two-thirds to €24.4 million last year from €68 million. Profit after tax dropped 75 per cent to €12.7 million in 2020 from €51.2 million the previous year.

Earnings per share fell at a similar rate to 1.7 cent last year from 6.5 cent in 2019.

Cairn earned €246.9 million from selling 743 homes last year. The balance of its turnover came from selling development sites.

Show homes shut

Following a positive start to sales in spring 2020, Government public health advice prompted Cairn to shut its show homes between March 27th and June 8th, after which viewing was by appointment only.

Cairn owns 36 sites, mainly in the Dublin area, where housing demand is greatest, with space to build an estimated 16,800 homes.

The builder believes construction will reopen fully in the Republic on April 6th following a prolonged lockdown.

It plans to work on 19 sites overall this year, employing about 2,000 people.

“Our construction sites have been closed since the start of the year and assuming they fully reopen on April 6th, 2021, Cairn’s construction activities will be limited to just over eight months in the current year,” the company said.

“This will have an impact on the number of new homes which we will be able to build and sell in 2021.”

Despite this, the company says it still expects to have sold 2,500 homes in total from this year to the end of 2022, a figure it predicted at the beginning of last year.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas