By Robert Kindregan and Claire Corrigan
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that the Midlands has seen an increase of 7.6% in homes built between January and March 2022 in comparison to the same period in 2021 – but just 19 new homes have been registered with the CSO for Mullingar in that period, just 16 in Athlone – and rents are soaring.
The Rental Tenancies Board has confirmed that the average monthly rental for new tenancies in Westmeath for the final quarter of 2021 was €1,011.60 compared to €858.60 for the same period a year earlier.
That’s a 17.8% increase and is the fourth biggest jump in the country.
The CSO home completion figures show that 16 homes were registered for the Athlone area and 35 homes were completed in the Kinnegad area which now ranks second for new builds in the Midlands, behind Tullamore on 97.
Cllr Dennis Leonard hailed “very resilient” Kinnegad and said this is good news for the fast-expanding town. “We had a population of 500 in 1997 and it’s 3,000 now in such a short space of time and it’s come from a very low base.”
But Mullingar Cllr Ken Glynn said he knows of one bread-earner who is being forced to borrow money to travel to work because of a Council rent increase. “Another increase will see this family on the road, as middle-to-low income families are having to decide if they can afford to stay in their homes,” he said. He called for a special meeting to discuss Council rents.
Cllr Glynn said anyone in a Council property is there because they are on a low income. He said for a family of four, “you are barely under €27,500 to qualify for the housing list, so how can people pay those sort of rents?”
In terms of new home completions, the much larger towns of Mullingar and Athlone are far behind Kinnegad.
Nationally, there were 5,669 new dwelling completions in Q1 2022. This was a 44.5% increase from 3,923 completions in Q1 2021.
Dublin experienced the most growth with a 120% increase in new builds.