Dublin slips in European rankings as accommodation crisis soars

10 Nov 2017

Dublin’s south docklands. Image: anyaivanova/Shutterstock

Planners need to start imagining life in the city 20 or 30 years from now.

Dublin has slipped in its ranking in the top European cities for real-estate investment, according to the latest PwC/Urban Land Institute (ULI) Emergent Trends in Real Estate report.

The report warned that the city’s infrastructure is not keeping pace with growth, cited by respondents as a risk factor.

Not only that, but, as everyone knows, Dublin needs more housing.

‘We need to focus on making the city of Dublin liveable for families and communities, to engineer a better quality of life, and that means combining residential housing policy with quality infrastructure’

And failure to keep up with this demand with quality accommodation will mean Dublin missing out on huge opportunities in the private rented sector and student housing.

Earlier this week, we reported how the ongoing accommodation crisis in Dublin and across Ireland could derail the country’s tech boom and frighten away investors as well as prospective talent.

The PwC/ULI report ranked Dublin in seventh place out of 31 European cities. This compares with fourth position last year and third position the year before.

Best bets in Europe for real-estate investment

Berlin, Copenhagen and Frankfurt are considered the best bets in Europe for real-estate investment and development in 2018.

According to the report, Dublin is also universally viewed as one of the cities likely to benefit from Brexit. With a skilled local, English-speaking workforce, Brexit will add another few years to demand for commercial property in Ireland, including attracting banks and financial services companies.

However, concerns are noted about the potential negative effects if the UK were to go into recession as a result of Brexit, particularly on Irish tourism.

According to PwC Ireland real-estate leader Joanne Kelly, slipping to seventh place isn’t exactly bad news as it shows the city is maturing as a location.

“The report highlights that Dublin is settling into a new phase as a normalised, mature and safe market to invest in after years as an opportunistic investing story,” Kelly said.

“The make-up of buyers is changing accordingly; less US private equity capital and much more institutional money, largely from Europe, especially from Germany, France, Switzerland and the UK.”

Her colleague, Ilona McElroy, PwC Ireland real-estate tax leader, said: “Investors see Dublin as a good location for stable income, with tenant demand from growing companies being healthy. The city has developed strong niches in financial services, US tech companies and aviation leasing, and its airport is exceptionally well connected to the UK and the US. Retail is also a hot topic in Dublin, with city centre streets, shopping centres and retail parks being targets for big investors over the last two years.”

People and infrastructure are key to the future of Dublin

However, from an infrastructure perspective, if Dublin doesn’t keep pace, it could miss out on a major opportunity.

According to Ken Tyrrell, partner for real-estate deals at PwC, Dublin’s city planners need to stop thinking short-term and start envisaging the kind of city Dublin will be in five, 10 and even 20 years’ time.

“Infrastructure as an issue doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” he explained. “Right now, there is an accommodation crisis and it is not just about rooms, but we need to consider the right infrastructure in terms of quality of life, parks, public transport, airports and ports, broadband and, of course, cultural infrastructure.

“We need to think about urbanisation and co-living spaces. We need to stop thinking in terms of two years out, otherwise we will end up in a situation like in the US, where investment in any new infrastructure is being held up by the cost of replenishment of existing bridges and roads and buildings.

“Ireland has succeeded in building a modern road infrastructure in recent years, but already we are at the point where the cost of replenishment is beginning to be felt. This will put pressure on current expenditure. As current budgets max, capital budgets get axed and, as a city, Dublin is competing with international cities like those in Asia, where new infrastructure is continually being added. Retrofitting every time we do infrastructure will take a toll,” Tyrrell warned.

Growing up and building up

Another aspect to Dublin’s infrastructure situation is planning and height restrictions.

“In terms of housing, Dublin is beginning to creak. A bigger issue is density and height. We have to stop shying away from how tall buildings can become. Out of the 12 tallest buildings in Ireland, only two are in Dublin, for example.

“While we are not talking about building loads of skyscrapers everywhere, arguments about Dublin’s ‘Georgian’ integrity pale when you think about how London is the ultimate Georgian city and has still managed to modernise but also keep the heart of its city in tact. Milan in Italy has also modernised without damaging its cultural and historical integrity.

“But, crucially, we need to focus on making the city of Dublin liveable for families and communities, to engineer a better quality of life, and that means combining residential housing policy with quality infrastructure.”

He said with tech giants such as Facebook taking up buildings in areas between East Wall and the IFSC, Dublin’s docklands could have a role to play in the Dublin of tomorrow.

“Whatever we do, we need to make sure that infrastructure and housing are developed in a way that adds vibrancy to our city. To stay relevant internationally, we have to be thinking out to 2050, but also have the courage to implement these plans.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years