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CITY TRIBUNE

€4 billion worth of property sold in Galway in a decade

Enda Cunningham

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This five-bed property in Lioscarraig on Threadneedle Road in Salthill sold for €1.45m.

More than €4 billion worth of homes were sold in Galway City and County over the past decade, according to the State’s official Property Price Register.

From January 2010 to December 2019, a total of 20,524 residential property transactions were registered here.

Last year alone, almost €620 million worth of homes were sold – the Property Price Register shows there was a slow-down in market activity in 2019 compared to the previous year, which saw the value of combined sales drop 3% and the volume of transactions drop more than 2%.

An analysis of official figures by the Galway City Tribune shows that up in 2019, there were a total of 2,593 property transactions in Galway City and County.

For comparison, in 2010 when the Price Register came into effect, there were 948 transactions, with a combined value of €211m – that means that in a decade, the number of transactions increased by almost 173%, while the value of sales almost trebled (up 192%).

In 2019, the total combined value of residential property sales was €619,929,382, down from €640,024,363 in 2018.

A ‘health warning’ comes with the figures in that the Property Price Register is compiled from data which is filed, for Stamp Duty purposes, with the Revenue Commissioners, and there can be delays before a transaction appears on the register.

Therefore, sales which were ‘closed’ in 2019, may not actually appear on the Register until 2020, while some late additions may be added to the 2019 Register.

The biggest single property sale of the year was a trophy Celtic Tiger home, Clarin House in Clarinbridge, at €2.2 million.

The luxury five-bed house was built in 2005 for €3m and previously failed to sell in 2012 at a price tag of €2.3m.

The 7,400 square foot house is set on 7.5 acres and boasts its own tennis court and floodlit football pitch, sports room, cinema room, bar, stables, paddock and outdoor sunken hot tub

Clarin House was also jointly the most expensive residential property sold in the last decade. Tulira Castle in Ardrahan was sold for the same price of €2.2m (the sale of land was purchased separately in that deal).

Close to Blackrock in Salthill, 4 Seamount sold for €2m. The large 1970s five-bed detached property stands on a quarter-of-an-acre and overlooks Salthill Promenade.

Seamount, Salthill: one of the biggest sales recorded on the Property Price Register in Galway last year at €2m.

Nearby, Number 13 Lioscarrig on Threadneedle Road is a five-bed detached home on around two-thirds of an acre. It sold for €1.45m.

In Clifden, the Old Rectory, which was built by town founder John Darcy in 1856, sold for €1.08m.

In total, there were 15 sales which exceeded the €1m mark – six of which were multi-unit residential sales.

The biggest property transaction in 2019 was 12 Racecourse Hill in Clifden, listed at more than €3.2m, suggesting it was a portfolio of a number of the two and three-bed houses in the estate. A portfolio of 14 homes in the estate sold in 2015 for €750,000.

A property at An Móinéar, Murrough, Renmore, in the city is listed as having sold at €3.2m – however, this is a new development of 20 homes behind the Garda HQ which is being run by the housing agency Clúid and would not represent the full open market value of the properties.

Numbers 1-6 Radharc na Gréine on the Monivea Road sold for €2.38m, while numbers 7-14 sold for €2.4m. These are also part of a social housing development.

In Salthill, a development of eight apartments, Marine View, on Quincentennial Drive, sold for €2.2m. Plans have already been lodged with Galway City Council for the demolition of the two apartment blocks and their replacement with 19 apartments specifically for short-term letting.

The cheapest property sale recorded in Galway in the first half of this year was at Tonroe, Oranmore, for €6,000.

The Property Price Register figures show that since 2010, the volume of sales being recorded in Galway – and their total value – decreased, before embarking on a significant upward trend.

In 2010, there were 948 sales registered in Galway, with a total value of almost €211.7m.

The comparative figures the following year were varied; the volume of sales was 956 (up less than 1%), while the value was €186.9m (down 11.7%).

In 2012, the value of sales was up around 4% to €194.3m and there was a 22.5% increase in the volume of sales from 956 to 1,171.

There was a subsequent massive jump in total values and volumes the following year – up 35% to 1,585 and up 27% to €248m.

Between 2013 and 2014, the volume of sales was up 53% from 1,585 to 2,428, while the total value was up 52% to €377.9m.

In 2015, there were 2,830 transactions with a total value of €477m, while in 2017, there were 2,783 transactions with a total value of €587m.

From 2017 to 2018, the volume of sales dropped from 2,783 to 2,654 (-4.6%), while the combined sales values increased by 9% from €587m to €640m.

CITY TRIBUNE

Outpatients’ concerns over reduced services at Merlin Park

Dara Bradley

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Patients who use ‘Hospital 1’ at Merlin Park face uncertainty over services after nurses were re-deployed to University Hospital Galway.

The hospital unit carries out infusion and transfusion services, as well as oncology and haematology.

Saolta University Hospital Group – which operates the public hospitals –has transferred nurses from Hospital 1 in recent weeks, so that it had sufficient staff available to reopen St Anthony’s Ward at UHG.

St Anthony’s is a 28-bed ward that had been closed all during Covid-19. It has now been re-opened, using redeployed nurses from Hospital 1, to cater for the return of essential procedures at UHG.

Saolta has argued that it is trying to maintain core services at UHG and it is re-deploying staff from elective areas in Merlin Park.

Merlin Park and UHG combined is Galway University Hospital – essentially the same workplace for industrial relations purposes – and is part of the same umbrella of hospitals in the West and North West run by Saolta.

A number of outpatients who have used Hospital 1 have told the Galway City Tribune they are concerned with the change, and the implications it might have on the services they receive.

Hospital 1 is a medical ward that offers a Monday to Friday service on the first floor of the main building on Merlin Park grounds.

They do infusions and transfusions and treat patients with MS, those who are anaemic, as well as oncology and haematology.

Those impacted by the reduced service at Hospital 1 also include people with blood disorders; people with blood cancers or leukaemia; and people with conditions such as myelodysplasia.

“Neurologists use it to observe patients who’ve had seizures. There’s a multitude of consultants who would’ve used Hospital 1 for various investigative procedures. Rather than going into hospital in UHG, occupying a bed, Hospital 1 is used for infusions, and you could be in and out in a day, or stay a couple of nights,” a source said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on Saolta to put in place a contingency plan.

Anne Burke, INMO, Industrial Relations Officer, Western Region, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that some of her members have been re-deployed from Merlin Park to UHG, because of a massive shortage of nurses at the Newcastle site.

“If they pulled the Hospital 1 nursing staff out of UHG today, St Anthony’s would have to close and that’s the nub of it. They simply do not have the staff to do it,” explained Ms Burke.

“The staff have redeployed. They were initially told it would be for two weeks. But clearly, that won’t be sustainable in the context of massive vacancies at the UHG site.

“There’s bound to be a very definitive impact on the service. We have members already working overtime, and part-time workers who have upped their hours. But you are only flogging a dead horse if you’re asking people to work over and above. There’s only so much overtime you can do – no matter what money is offered – in the context of the conditions on the wards,” she said.

Asked when Hospital 1 might return to ‘normal’ staffing levels, Ms Burke said: “When is it likely to revert? There’s a big question mark over it, and our position is that it’s an unanswered question in the context of the deficit of nurses at UHG site and the attempt by management to maintain core services.

“That might be of cold comfort to those who depend on transfusions in Hospital 1. But they are going to have to put in a contingency plan about all of this and how it’s going to be managed and how Joe and Mary Bloggs who is looking for an infusion or transfusion, how are they going to get that. They cannot just be left in abeyance. They have to receive some element of treatment. Whether that is done through engagement with the private hospitals again, we don’t know.”

The recent cyber attack on the HSE has hampered INMO’s ability to communicate with hospital management.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hundreds of new apartments in Galway will not be available to buy

Enda Cunningham

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The backer of the Crown Square scheme in Mervue is planning a massive ‘build to rent’ housing scheme as part of the development, with 345 apartments.

Padraic Rhatigan was previously granted permission for 288 apartments on the site but has now applied for a modified and higher-density development, with blocks ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

The plans include three blocks ranging from five to nine storeys in height, with garden courtyards.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, and there will be 1,200 secure bicycle parking spaces across the development.

The planning application was made directly to An Bord Pleanála under ‘Strategic Housing Development’ legislation, which allows for the Board to decide on applications residential developments of more than 100 units following initial consultations with the local authority.

According to Rhatigans, the property market has changed since it was granted permission in November 2019 for 288 apartments in three blocks ranging from five to eight storeys in height.

“The rationale behind this proposal stems from the changes to market modelling and the demand for residential accommodation which have arisen since the previously approved application.

“These amendments … are being proposed following a review of the economic viability of the overall scheme,” the applicant previously said.

According to the new application, the scheme is intended to create a “distinctive new city quarter”.

“Important pedestrian and cyclist connections are also incorporated into the design by creating links between Monivea Road and Joyces Road providing an accessible street network for walkers and cyclists. It is considered that the proposed development would bring significant socio-economic benefits to the community,” the application reads.

The apartments constitute Phase 2 of the Crown Square development. The first phase is already under construction and includes a 180-bed hotel with bar, restaurant and conference facilities and five office blocks with space for up to 3,500 workers.

Mr Rhatigan recently told An Bord Pleanála that despite uncertainty in the market with hotels at the moment due to Covid-19, there is still a plan to proceed with the hotel in Phase 1 “and broadly with the masterplan for the overall scheme”.

He explained that the substructure of the hotel was currently being put in and that Rhatigans are in discussions with a few potential operators, but are not as far along in the discussions due to the delays brought about by Covid-19, however, it is believed to be still viable.

It remains the intention to be a high-quality hotel with a good-branded operator on board, he told the Board.

Two of the buildings in Phase 1 are expected to be completed with landscaping and occupiers moving in at the end of this year.

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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council ‘does not outbid’ private buyers in housing market

Dara Bradley

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Charities that buy houses in Galway for homeless people are not distorting the property market, a senior official at City Hall has said.

Dermot Mahon, Acting Director of Services for Housing at Galway City Council, insisted that Approved Housing Bodies (AHB), which provide and manage rented social houses, do not outbid private buyers in the housing market.

He was responding to queries from elected members before they approved a loan of almost €1 million to facilitate three AHBs to buy four city homes.

“We don’t engage in a bidding process,” Mr Mahon said. “We take a value, and we will not exceed that value. If there are other purchasers we will not engage, and we will not exceed it [valuation].”

He said that there is a cap in all local authority areas set by Government regarding the maximum amount that can be paid to purchase houses for use as social housing rental properties.

Councillors agreed to approve loans of €930,000 for the purchase of four homes.

The agreement included €202,355 to Galway Simon for a two-bed house off the Western Distributor Road in Knocknacarra; some €189,264 to Cope Galway for a one-bed apartment on Dominick Street; and €246,528 and €292,279 respectively to Peter McVerry Trust for two-bed and four-bed houses in Doughiska.

Funding is provided by way of a grant from the Department of the Housing to the local authority who provides the funding to the relevant AHB in the form of a 30-year mortgage. Loan charges are waived provided the terms of the scheme are complied with.

“All properties have been supported by an independent valuation and represent good value for money,” said Mr Mahon.

He said that Simon and Cope were two organisations that had “excellent records” in Galway.

Mr Mahon said that Peter McVerry Trust is “in the market for more property” in Galway.

The Trust already operates the Modular Family Hub in Westside on behalf of the Council, which is a temporary facility to house people who are homeless in accommodation other than hotels and B&Bs.

Two families from the Westside Hub will be relocated to the two new properties bought in Doughiska.

In response to several questions from councillors, Mr Mahon insisted that the method of allocating housing was “transparent”.

“There is no queue skipping – it is done in consultation with us,” he said. It is based on need and length of time on the housing waiting list.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) called on the Council to carry-out full surveys of houses before they are allocated to tenants.

He pointed to a recent situation in Doughiska where homes were allocated to tenants but the properties were ‘faulty from the get-go’, which was not acceptable. The issue was decided on in the courts, he said.

Mr Mahon said the four new properties being discussed were compliant with planning permission and had been assessed by engineers.

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