At Rowan Fitzgerald Auctioneers, based in Limerick, we’re attuned to the challenges facing businesses in the region. Recent findings from a comprehensive survey conducted by a Limerick survey underscore the pressing issue of staff retention exacerbated by the housing crisis, which affects more than 60% of businesses in the area.

Over the summer, the largest business representative group in the Mid-West surveyed economic sentiment locally.

The results have revealed that housing for staff remains the key issue.

According to a Limerick survey, the majority of respondents ranked the availability of housing or rental accommodation as the barrier to filling job vacancies, followed closely by the availability of childcare plus the expectation of candidates to be able to work remotely.

Notably, despite these challenges, 59% of executives have expanded their workforces since the start of this year, with 48% of those surveyed stating they are primed to continue hiring.

The survey shows the economic position of companies across the region remains healthy, with 87% of those responding indicating that fresh investment is on the way.

The vast majority can self-fund the investment in their business.

Instead of finance being seen as limiting growth, it is demand, cost of labor, and supply chain issues.

Seventy percent of those surveyed consider the present situation of their company to be good, with the remainder ranking it as satisfactory.

In a sign of the times since Covid-19, executives of 9% of firms across the region say they need less office space. Only 15% want extra office space.

Some 59% of companies are working to what’s known as a hybrid model where sometimes staff are at home and sometimes they are in the office.

Almost all those surveyed reported experiencing an increase in their energy costs – and are expecting further hikes in the coming months.

It’s this cost of living crisis and the supply and affordability of housing which rank as the top issues.

A well known economist said: “While there is uncertainty out there amongst consumers, the business environment is broadly positive despite substantial increases in cost over the past year.

He noted most businesses are now operating a hybrid model.

Although, he added, this number has fallen since last year, seeing some demand for office space.

“Ultimately, feedback from this survey has been focused on talent and staffing, with existing skill shortages most businesses have turned to upskilling existing staff.

“The second most popular choice for responding to skill shortages has been to outsource work, where possible it is very important that we can keep this outsourcing within the Mid-West,” he said.

Another well-renowed CEO in Limerick added: “One of Ireland’s key selling points for both indigenous and international investment has always been our people. However, we have now moved to a position whereby businesses are here, they want to invest, they want to expand their workforce, but housing is emerging as the key barrier to doing so.”

A welcomed rise in cost-rental accommodation is apparent in Limerick, whereby council provide homes to people at a percentage below the average market rate.

“However, it is also important to prioritize home ownership, which ensures mixed tenure in developments, gives strong roots to workers in a community but also is sensible financial planning for workers as they consider their housing security at pension age when they potentially are reliant on a state/social welfare pension that may not be able to sustain high rents in retirement,” They added.