Northern Ireland firms take on Dublin's housing crisis with modular home projects
Irish government has plans to build 1,700 'Rapid Build' houses
Construction work in Dublin is bringing millions of pounds into the Northern Ireland economy as a Co Tyrone firm builds modular homes to help the Irish capital's worsening housing crisis.
Donaghamore Construction boss Mark Currie said that the company had secured two deals for building projects in the Dublin area.
An imbalance in housing supply and demand has seen both rent and housing prices soar in Dublin.
The problem has become so acute that there have been reports of internet cafes charging people €10 (£8.50) a night to sleep.
It's been claimed that the Greater Dublin area needs at least 1,200 new homes a month just to meet demand.
The faster modular homes can be completed in just three to six weeks, compared to three months using traditional methods.
The two Dublin projects being carried out by Donaghmore Construction are based in the north of the city - a 20-home development in Wellview, Mulhuddart and a 25-home development in Balbriggan.
Fingal Council, a council to the north of Dublin, has said it plans to build a total of 300 modular homes.
Industry experts say a modular housing development of around 20 homes can be worth between £3m-£4m to contracting firms.
And the potential for growth is huge.
The Irish government's Rapid Delivery Framework includes plans to build up to 1,700 rapid-delivery or modular houses.
The overall value of the framework is estimated to be between €250m and €400m (£212.5m and £340m).
Western Building Systems is also building modular homes in the Republic. The Dungannon firm - a specialist in modular homes - last year finished a 22-home development in Ballymun, an area to the north of the city.
The development was completed last May but the firm hopes to get involved with future projects in the city.
The firm's marketing manager, Seamus Donnelly, said the homes were partly modular and built using timber frames as part of a pilot project for the council.
"There's a housing crisis in the south at the moment so they're trying to get houses up as quickly as possible," he said.
"But between planning and other things that can be easier said than done, so the modular homes offer a good way to get construction completed as quickly as possible."
A rising population has been exacerbating the city's housing crisis and means the number of people looking for a home now vastly outnumbers supply, pushing prices up further. House prices in February soared by almost 11% when compared with last year, the Republic's latest Central Statistics Office figures show.
In response, Dublin City Council announced yesterday it would begin to offer permanent tenancies in modular homes.
Several NI firms have built a reputation for quality construction work and a select few have chosen to specialise in modular builds. But industry experts say the Irish market can be hard to crack due to varying interpretations of procurement rules.
And projects in Great Britain still account for the majority of the work done by Northern Ireland building firms.
John Armstrong, managing director of industry body the Construction Employers Federation, added: "For most of the last decade, a significant number of Northern Irish firms have thrived through winning and delivering work in a variety of new markets around the world.
"Increasingly, modular construction is a part of that success story and it is, undoubtedly, something that we will continue to see grow given the exceptional standard of the products and workmanship that Northern Irish companies produce."