Outlook for the property sector still very positive
Budget 2019 had few specific implications for property markets, nor was much needed, as most indicators are very positive. Overall, strong economic growth, increasing employment, increasing population and lower taxes will continue to drive the office and logistics markets and will help the retail sector, which continues to struggle in the face of online retailing. Mirroring all of that, and the positive outlook, the spend on commercial investments and development land is approaching record levels.
The exception, of course, is housebuilding, where supply levels remain way below what is required, in the private, affordable, and social sectors. The frustrating thing is that, similar to the issues in the health service, money isn’t the problem. Budget 2019 sees lots more money thrown at the crisis, but the problem is in breaking through the layers of bureaucracy and delay and translating funding allocations into actual building. There is a welcome initiative to try and simplify approval processes for local authorities to build social housing – but I’m not holding my breath.
The abolition of the special 9pc VAT rate for the hospitality sector is no surprise. Quite simply, it worked perfectly and is no longer needed (certainly in the cities). There will continue to be strong demand to buy and build hotels. The success of the ‘emergency’ VAT rate for hospitality, makes it more frustrating that the same thinking couldn’t be applied to solving much of the housing crisis. Halving VAT on new homes would have made homes more affordable, kick-started building and seen the State collect more VAT. It still would. It’s a win-win.
One problem is that tax incentives in the property sector are still politically toxic, and a VAT cut would be seen as a tax break for developers. It’s not, it’s a tax break for home-buyers. Other than a Brexit-related economic shock (and I’m still betting Brexit won’t happen) it’s hard to see anything other than increasing rents, capital values and land prices, in the short-term, at least.
Construction trades are a real option for women
If you happen to spot someone abseiling down the side of a construction project in Ireland, you may well be looking at industrial abseiler, Jen Kelly. Originally from Galway, Kelly has worked on skyscrapers and oil rigs around the world, and she recently worked on the facade of the new Grant Thornton headquarters on City Quay, Dublin 2. But Kelly is also committed to Women in Trades Network Ireland (WITNI), the mentoring and support group she founded in 2016.
Kelly tells me that in Ireland today, less than 1pc of construction workers on-site are women, and that women make up just 34 of the 10,000 apprenticeships with SOLAS (the State organisation for training and further education).
WITNI was established to encourage, mentor and support women coming into the trades and Kelly is glad to report she is seeing a big increase in the numbers of women enquiring to her. With a shortage of labour in the construction industry, which is affecting capacity and building prices, there are great career opportunities for women.
Kelly believes that the industry, if it wants to see more people becoming involved, will have to better support young people – particularly those not living at home. She does believe that SOLAS has made moves over the last year to “increase their reach to young women for the craft apprenticeships”.
Women working in construction in Ireland are in every sector, including electricians, plumbers, carpenters and welders, and on a recent field trip, members ranged in age from 21 to 76. WITNI is also working with companies who want help in accessing women employees, and Kelly finds it encouraging that contributors to their current crowdfunder to attend a Tradeswomen conference in Seattle, include the DIT and Glenveagh Properties.
“A passion for your job is what’s important. Trades are for everyone, regardless of gender,” Kelly told me.
For more information visit witni.ie