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Ireland’s other cities: Demand for housing soars as Covid alters landscape

Transport options improving in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford

According to the latest quarterly house price report from MyHome.ie, house prices nationally have increased 14 per cent on average, compared with 8.6 per cent for Dublin.

According to Joanne Geary, managing director of MyHome, the demand for properties in Ireland’s other cities has never been higher. “I have been working in property for over 25 years and this is one of the first times in those 25 years that I have seen price increases outside Dublin leading the mark,” she says.

Yet prices in the capital still soar above those in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. To give an example, the median asking price for a home in the capital is €385,000, compared with €245,000 elsewhere in Ireland. Yet there is a major supply issue outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Corking value 

Ireland’s second city, Cork, is more expensive than its regional counterparts but at a median price of €320,000 for a semi-detached four-bedroom home compared with €480,000 for Dublin, it still represents good value for money.

There is a focus on making the city centre more residential and the revitalisation of the Docklands – the largest regeneration project in Ireland – will create a “town within a city”, creating up to 20,000 homes and up to 25,000 jobs. Cork also has big plans for the next two decades in terms of park-and-ride provision, an enhanced commuter rail system and a new east-west light rail line – Luas Cork.

"Cork is currently a very car-based city but is currently in transition to a more public transport-based city with a number of initiatives in place to enhance the reliability and quality of service for the citizens and visitors of Cork city,"
Limerick is on a similar path, notes Pat Fitzgerald, head of trade and investment for Limerick City and County Council.

He says the “economic critical mass” that has been achieved in recent years has seen professionals moving back west to Limerick “in their droves. There are opportunities for people who want to come back to Limerick and work here.”

Fitzgerald points out that the cost of living in Limerick is relatively modest in comparison to Dublin or even Cork. “CSO figures recently showed that people living in Limerick have the second-highest level of disposable income in the country, outside of Dublin,” he says.

Factoring into this is the cost of housing: “It is 40 per cent of what it is in Dublin and 10-15 per cent cheaper than what it is in Cork,” says Fitzgerald. “The supply issue affects every location but the value is there and the quality you would get for €400,000 here surpasses anything you’d get in Dublin.”

Limerick is a major hub for travel, connected to all the major rail services and Shannon Airport is minutes away.

Fitzgerald also explains there are plans under the recently published Limerick Transport Study to provide an urban rail system within Limerick. Like other cities, there is a focus on “active travel” – making the city centre a friendlier place to walk and cycle and reducing the number of private cars.

The three cities of Limerick, Waterford and Cork are targeted for significant population growth of 50-60 per cent by 2040. The Southern Regional Assembly (SRA) is working on the development of the Southern Region, and they say it has the potential to become one of Europe’s “most creative and innovative, greenest and liveable regions”.

David Kelly, director of the SRA, says each of the three cities has “incredibly significant potential individually - however, the joint potential of the three cities is a powerful proposition for regional and national transformation.”

They say current national and regional policy offers a significant opportunity to establish balanced regional growth in Ireland and “radically realign the composition of Ireland’s population, employment and housing stock.

“This would allow the Southern Region to develop centres of scale which can supply a credible counterbalance to the Greater Dublin Area.”

Tribal culture

The median price for a four-bedroom home in Galway is significantly higher than Waterford and Limerick, at about €240,000. Demand is high in the City of the Tribes.

“Galway is similar to the other cities in Ireland in that it can be difficult to secure accommodation in the city centre,” says a spokesperson for Galway City Council, who adds that at present there were just 26 properties on Daft.ie available to rent. “However, there is a pipeline of residential properties coming on stream in the city to try to meet the demand for housing.”

Galway is well connected to Dublin via both private and public bus companies, as well as rail links, but its reputation as a traffic-choked city looks set to change.

“Public transport links for Galway City are currently being invested in to make them fit for purpose for a sustainable city,” says the spokesperson. “This includes investment in bus corridors, cycleways and walkways.” Research has shown that the number of private car users continues to fall, she adds.

Best Place to Live

Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland and also comes with the feather in its cap of having been named The Irish Times Best Place to Live 2021. The judges noted “its beautiful buildings, its liveability, its pedestrian-friendly public space, its weather, and its easy access to the Comeragh mountains and the Copper Coast.” Yet it was recently reported that there were just nine rental properties available in the city on a given day, so it appears plenty of people have already got the memo.

According to Conan Power of Waterford City and County Council, buyers are getting more value – and availability – than Déise renters at the moment. “Rents are increasing, as they are across the country and rental properties are generally scarce,” he says.

However, he notes that availability of accommodation for house buyers in Waterford city is good, with a broad range of properties available, from new builds to properties in more established areas.

“Prices vary with a recent search on Daft.ie shows 62 two- or three-bed homes for €200k or less,” says Power. “However, despite prices for buyers and renters steadily rising, Waterford remains competitive in this area.”

Waterford is well connected to the other major cities in terms of rail and bus links and the M9 – toll-free – motorway will have you at the Red Cow roundabout within 90 minutes.

While Waterford Airport has been in limbo in recent years, there are hopes it may once again offer flights to the UK and mainland Europe in the not-too-distant future.

As our urban centres become more densely populated, the challenge will be to preserve what brought people there in the first place.

“Our cities need sustainable planning and investment to ensure that they can absorb a significant scale of development, keep their essential character and ensure quality of life,” says Kelly.

Danielle Barron

Danielle Barron is a contributor to The Irish Times