BUILDERS yesterday denied that too many houses went up at the height of the boom -- insisting they built to the demand that existed.
Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of housing and planning services at the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), made the comments after a new report claimed 170,000 more houses were built than were needed during the property bubble.
The organisation is now calling on the Government to conduct a national audit to provide "accurate" data on the number of empty homes.
It argues that a definitive account of the situation has not been presented -- because reports probing the issue are measuring housing stock in different ways.
The latest report into housing published yesterday by University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) found a total of 345,000 homes -- or 17pc of all housing -- were currently lying empty.
It said that even without considering holiday homes and homes no longer in use, there was still 170,000 houses and apartments surplus to demand.
And it warned that NAMA could prolong the slump by preventing downward price corrections.
Mr Fitzpatrick denied that developers had built far too many houses during the boom.
"Developers built to the demand that existed at the time," he said.
And he told RTE News that builders had not "messed up".
"We acknowledged at the time that building 80,000 to 90,000 houses on an annual basis was not sustainable."
The latest housing report differs from the CIF's own figures, which maintain that there are 35,000 to 40,000 new homes remaining unsold.
It also contrasts with figures from the Department of the Environment, which suggest a figure of between 120,000 and 147,000. And National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis at NUI Maynooth concluded that 302,625 houses were now uninhabited.
The CIF believes a national audit should be conducted to give a definitive account of the situation.
"There have been four or five reports on this issue and a range of difference between each," a spokesman for the federation said last night.
"There is a need for a report where everyone knows what the framework is and where there is a clear idea of how vacant stock is defined.
"There is a need for a national audit of housing stock. It would be beneficial to do it once and for all."
Yesterday, Housing Minister Michael Finneran also admitted the actual figure of vacant homes may be lower than the UCD/DIT report.
He said a county-by-county calculation of the number of unfinished housing estates was taking place.
Once it was completed, the Department of the Environment, along with local authorities, would decide what could be done to remedy the problem, including the introduction of incentives, said Mr Finneran.
"The figures available to me say there is somewhere between 122,000 and 147,000 vacant properties," he said.
"That's the figure. There are other figures out there. But remember that in any country in the western world there is always an overhang of about 6pc to 7pc."