Friday 2 December 2016

Census shows 'we're not building anywhere near enough houses'

Laura Larkin

Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30

Dr Lorcan Sirr. Photo:: Mark Condren
Dr Lorcan Sirr. Photo:: Mark Condren

The housing data gathered by the CSO in this year's Census has exposed a number of weaknesses in Ireland's housing market, including a "disappointingly low" number of new houses being brought on stream.

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According to the preliminary report from the Census, the housing stock has increased by just 18,981 since 2011, which is far below what is needed to tackle the housing crisis, according to experts.

Meanwhile, the variance in vacancy rates around the country shows that we are still dealing with the legacy of previous policies, which were designed to encourage building in rural areas where demand had not materialised.

The number of vacant homes dropped by 29,889 and now stands at 259,562. The national vacancy rate currently stands at about 9.8pc when holiday homes are excluded. The optimum housing vacancy rate, which would indicate a healthy housing market, should be around 6pc.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, a housing lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology, said: "The CSO stats show that we are delivering about 3,800 houses a year, when we should be building about 25,000 houses a year. We are way down, it's really disappointing.

"The number should really bring home a big dose of reality that we are not building anywhere near enough houses."

'Click to enlarge'
'Click to enlarge'

The vacant site levy which is due to come into effect in 2018 will see developers pay a 3pc levy on the value of undeveloped land they own, but will not be enough to solve the problem of the housing supply, according to Dr Sirr.

He said the issue of developers "sitting on" land with planning permission attached must also be addressed.

How housing is measured also needs to be examined in order to better inform policy Dr Sirr said.

He explained: "We have serious issues around the way we measure the number of houses that we build and it's very hard to make housing policy when you're slightly in the dark about the number of houses you are building each year."

Read more: Ireland's population has increased and more - 8 things you need to know from Census 2016

The increase in the number of households was 3pc - lower than the rate of population increase. This is the first time that the rate of increase has dipped below the population increase in recent censuses.

In areas such as Fingal, the data shows that household sizes are getting bigger, bucking the trend of previous censuses.

Ned Brennan, chief operating officer with Respond Housing Association, said the emerging trend was symptomatic of two things.

"From my experience, we are seeing second family formation in the family home because adult children can't afford to buy or rent elsewhere.

"There is also the fact that immigrant families often have larger families than the average Irish family size," he said.

Vacancy rates vary widely between counties, showing that housing supply is needed in Dublin but there is oversupply in much of rural Ireland, particularly in the north-west.

The highest rate of vacancy is 30.5pc in Leitrim and the lowest is 5.4pc in south Dublin.

Read more: Census 2016: Reverse the bedsit ban and four other ways to fix the housing crisis

Urban areas and the commuter counties are showing the lowest vacancy rates.

Fingal, the administrative area of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and Kildare all have vacancy rates of 6pc.

The number of holiday homes is also up slightly to 61,204.

Irish Independent

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