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Majority of under-occupied dwellings in Europe found in Ireland


MORE than two-thirds of the population in Ireland were living in under-occupied dwellings in 2016, according to the latest data from Eurostat.

An under-occupied dwelling is, according to the official statistics office of the European Union (EU), one that is deemed to be too large for the needs of the household living in it, in terms of excess rooms and, more specifically, bedrooms.

The classic cause of under-occupation in dwellings is older individuals or couples remaining in their home after their children have grown up and left.

Along with Ireland, where just over 70pc of the population were living in under-occupied dwellings, Cyprus (69.6pc), Malta (68.4pc) and Belgium (67pc) also had a large majority of their population living in under-occupied dwellings in 2016. The figures for Ireland are well above the European average of 34.8pc of people living in under-occupied dwellings.

In contrast, fewer than 15pc of the population in Europe were living in dwellings deemed to be too large, according to Eurostat.

Meanwhile, data from Eurostat from 2015 showed just over 90pc of people living in Ireland were living in a house, well above the EU average of just under 60pc. The large percentage of the population living in houses in Ireland goes some way to explaining the high level of under-occupied dwellings.

However, despite a preference among Irish people to own their own homes, the number of Irish build-to-rent (BTR) properties in Ireland is growing rapidly.

While BTR is a long-established sector of property markets internationally, it is a relatively new phenomenon here.

It is popular with institutional investors such as pension funds targeting long-term rental incomes derived from letting residential units in large numbers.

These provide steady returns over many years, and through the peaks and troughs of economic cycles.

On the matter of overcrowded households, in 2016 in the EU just over 16pc of the population were living in overcrowded households, meaning they did not have the number of rooms appropriate to the size of the household.

The problem was especially notable in Romania, where almost half the population were living in overcrowded households in 2016.

This was also the case for around two in every five people in a number of other member states, including Latvia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland, and for around one in four people in Greece, Italy and Lithuania.

At the opposite end of the scale, unsurprisingly, the member states with the lowest levels of overcrowding rates almost mirrors the member states that are experiencing under-occupied dwellings, with Cyrus, Malta and Ireland reporting the lowest overcrowding rates.

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The findings from Eurostat come after the Central Statistics Office earlier this week revealed that the pace of property price rises has picked up. In the year to April, residential property prices at national level increased by 13pc.

Meanwhile, the average cost of renting in Ireland has surged past €1,000 a month nationally, according to data from the State's Residential Tenancy Board.

New figures show rental inflation hit 7pc in the first three months of the year compared with the previous quarter.

It now costs €1,500 a month for accommodation in Dublin, up more than €1,000 from a year ago.

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