Housebuilding: Dublin’s urban sprawl is only getting worse

Smart Money: First-time buyers again being pushed out to commuter counties

Urban sprawl is spreading again, out from the greater Dublin region, raising big questions for housing and planning. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Urban sprawl is spreading again, out from the greater Dublin region, raising big questions for housing and planning. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

New figures show an extraordinary surge in house-building in Dublin’s commuter counties. The Mid-East region is expanding – at an extraordinary rate. With the economy growing strongly and house-hunters priced out of Dublin, house-building in the region – including Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and Louth – was running 57 per cent ahead on an annual basis in the third quarter, according to figures in a report by Goodbody Stockbrokers, using official data sources. Urban sprawl is spreading again, out from the greater Dublin region, raising big questions for housing and planning – and leaving many families facing long, car-based commutes. This is the opposite of what was intended under the spatial plan set down by the Government – but it is what is happening. What does the evidence show?

1. Where are houses being built? The first part of the story is familiar. First-time buyers are being priced out of many parts of the Dublin market, while more expensive properties appropriate to those trading up are often not selling. The reality of affordability – or unaffordability – is hitting home. The Goodbody data, compiled largely using BER (Building Energy Regulation) data, shows a big 34 per cent year on year jump in house completions nationally in the third quarter. However, the market is still in a strange place. The biggest contributor to the annual growth was the 57 per cent rise in new dwelling completions in the Mid-East region – the Dublin commuter counties. In contrast, completions grew just 9 per cent in Dublin itself. Apartments represent around 44 per cent of completions in Dublin. Outside Dublin, almost half of the completions are semi-detached and not far off another quarter are detached. As Goodbody put it, apartments only seem viable in Dublin “resulting in a sprawl of lower density housing outside the capital”. The brokers estimate that over the past year around 5,100 completions have taken place in the Mid-East, not far off one quarter of the national total.

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